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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 9, 2004
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:53 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me begin with a world leader call the President made earlier this morning. The President called Presidents Kwasniewski and Adamkus to congratulate them on their mediation efforts in Ukraine and to thank them for them for their leadership. The President offered continued support from the United States for their efforts, together with the European Union.
The President brought up how their own individual experiences in Poland and Lithuania offered valuable lessons for Ukraine. The three leaders agreed on the need for all parties to implement reforms in good faith to ensure a free and fair vote on December 26th. They welcome the strong NATO-Russia statement on Ukraine agreed to by foreign ministers today in Brussels. The Presidents underscored the importance of international observation of the December 26th vote, and agreed that the international community needed to remain focused on supporting a peaceful, democratic process that reflects the will of the people in Ukraine.
And that's all I have to begin with. I will be glad to go to questions. Mr. Plante.
Q So the President says that he will not prejudge any solution, but then he rules out a tax increase. Isn't that prejudging a solution?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, that's one of the principles that the President outlined as part of our efforts to move forward to solve this problem. There are a lot of members of Congress who are committed to strengthening Social Security for future generations. And the President wants to work closely with them in a bipartisan way to get this done in his second term. And the President met with some of those leaders earlier this week. There are, obviously, different ideas, but the President believes there are some important principles that ought to guide us as we move forward. And that was one of them, as well as, no change for retirees or those at or near retirement.
Q So that's a principle, not a prejudgment.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's one of his principles, but he's made it very clear that he does not believe we should raise payroll taxes; that was something he campaigned on during the campaign, it was one of the issues that was discussed at length. And the American people spoke very clearly in support of his approach to strengthening Social Security.
Q Just to be clear: that would leave open the two other possibilities, which are reducing benefits or increasing the debt.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, reducing benefits significantly or increasing taxes significantly, that's what would happen if we don't solve this problem. In terms of the debt, the debt is being increased because this program is going insolvent. The Social Security trustees he met with earlier today, in their reports over the last couple years, have pointed out that in 2042 this is a system that will become insolvent. That's why we need to solve it today. And by solving it, we will address that unfunded liability. I think the financial markets will look very favorably upon that approach.
Q Can you clarify one thing on this point? The question that was asked of him was whether or not -- was about taxes to pay for the transition. It's not clear to me; are you saying that his principle is no increase in payroll taxes just for the transition, or to solve the overall problems with Social Security?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's made it very clear that the principles for strengthening Social Security are based on no changes for those at or near retirement; no raising of payroll taxes, as well as making sure that younger workers have voluntary personal savings accounts. Those are principles he feels strongly about. And that's why he articulated them previously. And he wants to use that as a basis for moving forward to get this solved.
Q So separate -- so separate and apart from the idea of creating private accounts, the President would not countenance any increase in payroll taxes at all to solve the existing problems of Social Security?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he's made it pretty clear, Jim, to that effect. But what I want to emphasize, and it's what the President emphasized earlier today, and it's what he emphasized in his meeting earlier this week with members of Congress, this is an important priority. It's a problem that is getting worse over time. We need to solve it now so that we don't pass it on to future generations.
And the President has made it very clear: I want to work in a bipartisan way to get this done. But there are certain principles that should guide us as we move forward. And personal savings accounts are part of the solution to strengthening Social Security. It's part of a comprehensive solution for getting this fixed so that we don't have to continue to come back every so often and keep hiking taxes on the American people. He wants to add a new benefit for younger workers so that they can realize a greater rate of return on their retirement savings.
Q But, Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Terry.
Q Would raising the $87,900 ceiling cap on taxes, would that constitute a tax increase? Or is he open to doing that?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are several pieces of legislation that are out there right now by members of Congress to address this problem. The President wants to work with those members who have put forward some of those proposals. You're referencing one of the legislative proposals that has been put forward. The President has outlined his principles. He's made that very clear. And what we are doing is not trying to get into what we're against, what we're for. What we're focused on is what we can get accomplished together to get this done. But the principles, I think, are very clear. He does not support raising payroll taxes to strengthen Social Security.
Q Does that violate --
MR. McCLELLAN: The fact of the matter is that if we don't solve this problem payroll taxes are going up big time. We need to solve this problem so that doesn't happen.
Q So I'm still unclear, does that violate the principles or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, this is what you're trying to get me into talking about specific pieces of legislation. I don't think it serves us well to get into a discussion --
Q Put the legislation aside.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, let me finish -- no, no, let me the finish the point I'm making. The President is firmly committed to working in a bipartisan way with those who want to solve this problem. This is a very real and growing problem. We want to get it done. And we want to reach out to members, listen to their ideas. But his principles are very clear. And I think if you're talking about increasing taxes, the President has made it clear that he would not support that.
Q Just to -- you caused a little confusion here. The President opposes raising the rate of the payroll tax flat out. Does the President also propose -- oppose, sorry -- does the President also oppose raising the ceiling of the income on which the tax falls, in other words, above the $87,900?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, if you're talking about increasing payroll taxes, the President has said that is not how we should proceed. We should proceed with solving this problem so that we don't keep facing tax increases or benefit cuts for future generations of workers. The President --
Q Is what --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish, Jim. The President is reaching out to members of Congress. There are a lot of ideas. Some of ideas you're expressing in your question. I don't want to, from this podium, to try to get into a discussion that we are going to be having with members of Congress about how we can get this solved. I know that you all want to say, what are you for, what are you against in specific pieces of legislation.
What I want to say is, let's work together, as the President said, so that we can get this done. And that's the spirit in which we're working, and I don't think it behooves us from this podium to get into a discussion of all the different pieces of legislation that are out there. What we want to signal to members of Congress is, we want to work with you; let's get this done, working together. But the principles the President outlined are very clear. You all are very well aware of them, and I don't think it behooves us, moving forward, trying to get this done to get into a discussion of all the different pieces of legislation.
Q The President, just now in the Oval Office, took something off the table. We're trying to figure out what it was that he took off the table.
MR. McCLELLAN: He didn't just now take something off the table. He has laid out those principles for quite some time. And the American people spoke in support of those.
Q The President has taken something off the table. He said there is to be no increase in payroll taxes. And we want to know, what does that mean? Does it mean, there will be no increase in the rate of payroll taxes? Yes? And does it also mean that no more income than the $87,300 right now would be subject --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President views this as if payroll taxes are going up, you're raising payroll taxes. That is not something he is for.
Q So that's off the table, too?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's not something he's for. But I'm not getting into a discussion of all the individual pieces of legislation that are out there at this point. We have not endorsed a specific plan a this point. What we want to do is get with members of Congress and work to solve this problem. We want to hear their ideas and we want to work with them in a bipartisan way to get this done.
Q Scott, do you agree that the cost estimate is $1 trillion to $2 trillion, or are you coming up with your own?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we haven't endorsed a specific plan, Steve, so, I mean, I think that it depends on the plan that you're talking about. But when you're talking about it, you said cost -- I would argue it's a savings, because the cost right now of inaction is nearly $11 trillion, if we do nothing. The President believes that we need to address that unfunded liability and solve this problem. And there will be some up-front transition financing needed to move to personal savings accounts and strengthen Social Security, but it would be a significant savings over the $11 trillion.
Q Scott, on the same --
Q You made it pretty clear -- rather, the President has, that this is going to be difficult; that taking on something of this magnitude requires sacrifice. Without getting into specific proposals, is the President prepared to ask the American people to live with increasing the deficit for a period of time, through borrowing, if we're going to fundamentally restructure the Social Security program?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are two things that the President's focused on -- when it comes to the deficit, there are two things he's focused on: the short-term deficit and the long-term deficit. Social Security is an unfunded liability that is a long-term deficit problem. It's a very serious matter that needs to be addressed and not passed on to future generations. The markets recognize this problem. The markets, I think, would look favorably upon any plan that fixes that unfunded liability. And if there are some short-term, up-front financing that is needed to do that, yet it brings down the overall cost of the program, they will view that in a very favorable light.
Q Let me just clarify. That's important, I think. The answer is, yes -- the American people -- you've got to be clear about this. There's a lot of questions. The President is saying to the American people, you're going to have to live with more borrowing, a bigger deficit for now, if we're going to head it off down the road.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me try to explain to you. What you may be talking about is for the up-front transition financing that would be needed, you're pushing some of that $11 trillion forward, but you're also bringing it down significantly by fixing the problem. And that's what I'm referring to when I say that the financial markets would look very favorably upon a solution to this unfunded liability.
Q Borrowing, that's borrowing. Just use English -- that's borrowing.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've said that it could require that for the transition financing. But we're going to work with members of Congress about how to exactly finance the transition to --
Q By borrowing.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- personal savings account and strengthening Social Security. There are a number of options for doing that.
Q I just want to follow on one point, Scott, if I might.
MR. McCLELLAN: David, do you yield?
Q I yield to the gentleman --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Sorry, David. I just wonder why the President doesn't feel compelled, on an issue like this, to be more specific with Congress? Why just give them principles, and why not give them more of a roadmap?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, right now, we are talking with members of Congress about how we proceed forward together. And sometimes the approach we're taking is a very effective way to get things done. We have done it in the past. We've talked about previous big priorities that needed to be addressed. And we've accomplished significant results on tackling some of the big challenges that this country faces, whether it's education or tax cuts or Medicare. We have always tried to reach out and work together to proceed forward and accomplish these great goals.
Q One of your other principles enunciated during the campaign was to cut the short-term deficit, as you referred to it here, by half within four years. In the President's mind, does any solution that he comes up with for the transition financing get included in that short-term deficit over the next four years, or does he, in his mind, view this as a completely separate problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: Have we changed our plan? Is that what we're asking? The President remains committed to cutting the deficit over the next five years, cutting it in half. And that's something he remains committed to doing. He also is firmly committed to addressing the unfunded liabilities that we face.
Q As you said yourself, before, Scott, it's possible you may have to move some of this $11 billion into short-term -- into a short-term issue in order to deal with it, and deal with a smaller amount.
MR. McCLELLAN: Move it forward to save the overall cost there.
Q So my question is, does that count in the number that you are referring to when you say that you'll cut the deficit in half --
MR. McCLELLAN: And my response to that is that the President remains to cutting the deficit in half over the next five years, and he also remains committed to addressing the long-term deficits that we face by fixing these unfunded liabilities.
Q As he defines the deficit in the next five years, does that include or exclude any costs of transition for Social Security?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if there are any costs, they'll be in our budgets that we put going forward.
Q So he is including them?
MR. McCLELLAN: And again, I wouldn't view anything as a cost; I view them as savings. But, no, no, we have not put out our -- we have not endorsed a specific plan, first of all. The first step would be endorsing what your specific plan is for the transition financing. But the President remains committed to cutting the deficit in half over the next five years.
Q Scott, I --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Ed. I'll come to you.
Q Scott, just to clarify on the points that Terry and Terry were trying to make. What would the White House --
MR. McCLELLAN: David and David, Terry and Terry --
Q Everybody --
MR. McCLELLAN: Is there another Ed? (Laughter.)
Q If there were stories this evening and tomorrow that say the White House on Thursday left open the possibility of raising the ceiling cap on contributions to Social Security, what would the White House reaction be?
MR. McCLELLAN: You would be writing it that way. I would not encourage you to write it that way.
Q But I'm asking what your reaction would be.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've made it very clear what the President's principles are. The President made it very clear what his principles are earlier today. He reiterated those principles: no changes at or near retirement, no increase in payroll taxes, and voluntary personal savings accounts. If you're talking about increasing payroll taxes, that is one of the principles that the President has said we should not pursue.
Q Just to follow up. With the principles that the President has laid out, is he not painting himself in a corner in terms of all the possible solutions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Ed, this was an issue that was put before the voters. It was one of the big issues of the campaign that was discussed. The President said we need to strengthen Social Security. He talked repeatedly about the principles that should guide us moving forward. Senator Moynihan is someone who understood the importance of fixing this problem. Back in the '80s they thought they had fixed it by raising taxes. Here we are again talking about the need to fix it again because that didn't work. And now the President wants to work with leaders who are in the same mold as Senator Moynihan and believe that we need to fix these big problems that we face and not continue to let them get worse.
In the Moynihan Commission, they talked about the importance of personal savings accounts. They talked about the importance of how the thrift savings plan was a good example of where federal employees are able to invest in mutual funds and safely realize a great rate of return upon those -- on those investments.
Q Scott, can I just follow on Ed's just for a second?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'll get to you in a second, though.
Q How are you reaching out to Democrats? And what are you hoping to offer them to get them to come on board?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we had a meeting on Monday in the Cabinet Room. The President met with a number of Republican and Democratic leaders to talk about this issue. It included the leadership, as well as the caucus and conference chairmen of the parties. And they talked about the problem that we face. And they talked about ways that we can move forward working together. I think everybody came to that meeting with a sense of working in a bipartisan way. We hope that that will continue. The President will be reaching out. It takes other people reaching back to get this done.
But first, as he said earlier today, we all need to agree that this is a real problem, and agree on how we proceed going forward based on a common set of data to work from. And so that's what we're focused on.
Q Scott, is raising the income level that would be subject to payroll taxes tantamount to a payroll tax increase in the President's view?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Keith, we've been through this question now three or four times.
Q You didn't answer it --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I've addressed it. I don't have anything to add.
Q You have not completely addressed it. You're leaving open -- you're leaving open the idea that he might be able to consider --
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand.
Q -- by not directly answering the question.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not leaving open any ideas.
Q So we don't know what he's talking about.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying that the President's principle is no increase in payroll taxes.
Q So I'm just asking you, is that an increase in payroll taxes?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I've addressed this question.
Q Not in a way that any of us understand.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead -- go ahead.
Q To talk about how you're going to pay for this, some people have said that this -- the up-front cost that you were just talking about could be as much as $2 trillion, and you say that you're not going to increase payrolls, you're not going to use the deficit because you're going to cut the deficit in half. So how are you going to pay for this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what we're -- we're, one, reaching out to members of Congress and talking to them about how we address the transition financing and other issues needed to strengthen Social Security. When we get to the point of talking about a specific plan, then we can probably talk further about that very issue. But there are options available for that transition financing, but it's going to be a solution that fixes this unfunded liability and brings us significant savings, while making sure that Social Security is there for future generations to realize a great rate of return on their investments.
Q So are you ruling out the idea of raising the ceiling as a solution?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is a question we've gone through and I want to reiterate to you all in this room, I'm not here to try to negotiate with members of Congress from this podium. There's some plans that have been put forward. The principles upon which the President is working are very clear to members of Congress. They know what his position is. If you're talking about raising payroll taxes, that is a payroll tax increase; the President would not be for that. It's one of the President's core principles for moving forward on strengthening Social Security.
At the same time, I want to emphasize that the President wants to work in a bipartisan way with all members of Congress who are committed to getting this done. Congressman Boyd is someone, a Democrat, who came out the other day and said we need to strengthen Social Security. Now, he was embracing a specific plan, Congressman Kolbe's plan. Congressman Kolbe has a plan; Senator Graham has a plan. Senator Graham and Congressman Kolbe and Congressman Boyd are people that this President wants to work with very closely to get this done. We have some different ideas, but the President is focused on how we can come together to solve this problem.
And that's why -- I'm not trying to get into all the different specific legislative proposals that are out there from this podium, but I want to reiterate to you what the President's principles are. I think they're very clear. I know you all want to pull me further into this discussion with members of Congress from this podium. The President wants to pull members of Congress into discussions here at the White House so we can focus on getting this done.
Go ahead, Les.
Q Senator Robert Byrd --
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a Social Security question?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, no, that's fine.
Q Senator Robert Byrd said yesterday, "We cannot expect intelligence reform without closing these gaps in illegal immigration," while The Washington Times editorial today said, "Three years after September 11th and still our immigration system is in tatters." And my first question: How many illegals are in the U.S. and how many are arriving in this country every day in the Bush administration's estimate?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with the immigration people on the latest statistics, but I think there have been a number of estimates around the 8 million range of people. But the President, what he is working to do is to strengthen our border security and to strengthen our controls along the border to prevent people who should not be entering the country, like terrorists or criminals, from coming into the country, while also making sure that we remain a welcoming society. We are a nation of immigrants, and the President believes in those core principles that we should remain a welcoming society, but we also need to take steps to strengthen our border enforcement.
And this legislation the President will be signing into law takes a number of steps to do that, by increasing the number of border control agents, increasing the number of agents in the immigration and Custom services over the next five years by a certain amount on each of those. And there's more that we can do, and the President talked about how he looked forward to continuing to work with Congress.
The President has also put forward a plan based on some specific principles for moving forward on a temporary worker program that would address some of the economic need in this country, while also addressing the issue of people coming to this country from Mexico and other countries to our south who are seeking a better way of life. Ultimately, what we need to do is continue to expand trade opportunities so that we can raise the standard of living in other countries so that people will be less inclined to want to come here to seek a better way of life. Many of these people are just coming to the United States to seek a better way of life.
Q Reuters --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm going to keep going. Goyal, go ahead.
Q No, I've --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come back to you if I can. I'll come back to you if I can. Goyal, go ahead.
Q On Afghanistan. This week there was a milestone, and also I'm sure the President must be feeling a dream come true that, like Vice President Cheney and also Secretary Rumsfeld called that this is the first time ever in 5,000 years of history of Afghanistan that there was a first ever elected free government. And millions of Afghans now enjoy freedom. My question is that how does the President feel? And also, are we seeing more like this in Iraq? And also, some woman in Afghanistan -- they were protesting here. I was speaking to some of the immigrants from Afghanistan in this area -- they are saying there is more to be done, and they are calling on the White House, one, they are saying that -- the White House and Americans -- but more to be done for women, and also to fight against terrorism from --
MR. McCLELLAN: Is there a question?
Q Yes. On Afghanistan, it was an historic moment earlier this week in Afghanistan when President Karzai took the oath of office as a freely elected leader. It is an inspiration to other countries who aspire to be free. And it is a significant change from where Afghanistan was just a few years ago when it was ruled by the Taliban in an oppressive -- an oppressive regime that provided a safe haven for terrorists like al Qaeda. It was a remarkable moment to see that. And Vice President Cheney was glad to lead our delegation over there and be there for the swearing-in.
Q And Iraq? How about Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Deborah.
Q Scott, back on Social Security. Sorry. You just specifically mentioned that Senator Graham's plan is among the ones that you would like to consider.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said he is someone we want to work with.
Q Now, his plan provides for raising the ceiling. Should we conclude from your -- I mean, Scott, we've been playing word games for the last half-an-hour. Is it fair for us to conclude that you have neither endorsed, nor opposed the idea of --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we're trying to resolve this from this podium, resolve this --
Q No, we're not. Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- resolve what the President stands for in terms of legislation. And what I'm saying is I'm trying to avoid that from this podium, because it's best to have these discussions directly with members of Congress. We haven't had a chance to sit down and talk at length with Senator Graham about his proposal. The President certainly hasn't had that opportunity. He welcomes -- he welcomes ideas.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I did not say that. You are -- you are asking that question. I told you I would not encourage you to write that. The President has made his principles very, very clear. But if you want me to start getting into ruling things in or out on specific legislation, I don't think that's helping to move the process forward from this podium. I think the best way to move this process forward is for the President to have these discussions with members of Congress and talk about how we get to what our common goal is, which is fixing this unfunded liability and making sure that our younger workers, our children and grandchildren, have their retirement benefits when they retire. Because right now they are not going to have their savings when they retire.
Q Scott, do you understand that you have left this possibility in our minds?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, do you understand that I try not to negotiate solutions from this podium, and that the President has not endorsed a specific proposal. You all are trying to get into a specific legislative proposal. And what I'm saying is that Senator Graham is someone who is committed to solving this. He's someone we want to work with. But the President's principles are very clear. I don't think they're fuzzy at all. The President said no increase in payroll taxes; no changes for those at or near retirement; and voluntary personal savings accounts for younger workers. Those principles are very clear. Everybody knows what they are. They were discussed during the campaign, and the American people spoke very clearly that they supported that approach going forward.
Go ahead, John.
Q If that's not the case, then why shouldn't the --
Q Scott -- excuse me, the next question was for me.
MR. McCLELLAN: John, go ahead.
Q All right, turning back to immigration. The question, there seems to be kind of a disconnect between the administration and Chairman Sensenbrenner. At his press conference yesterday, he said that he's in agreement with the White House on asylum, but there are disagreements, or he doesn't know the administration's position on the driver's license issue for illegal immigrants, or extending the fence along the border. Do you think you can clear up those two points that Chairman Sensenbrenner raised?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what the President has said, he looks forward to talking with members early next year about some of the other ideas. Chairman Sensenbrenner certainly had some ideas. We spelled out some of our views on those issues in letters that we sent to members of Congress -- one this week and one back in October, if I remember correctly. And so the President looks forward to talking with people about those issues.
In terms of driver's license, the President stated that we need to consult closely with states about the standards that we're talking about setting. So that's his view there.
Sarah and then April.
Q Thank you. I have two questions, if I may. How hard will the President push to get the 10 Commandments in U.S. courts? Isn't that a violation of the Constitution?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, could you repeat the first part of your question?
Q How hard will the President push to get the 10 Commandments in U.S. courts?
MR. McCLELLAN: In U.S. courts. Well, I think the President has stated his views on the issue, and certainly in terms of the legal matters, those are issues being discussed before the courts. In certain instances, the courts have said it's okay to display the 10 Commandments in public places; in others, they haven't. And that's an issue that they've been working to resolve.
Q I have one more question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going, though, and I'll come back to you if I can. April.
Q Scott, back on Social Security, although you're not answering specifically certain issues, early in the first part of the Bush administration there was talk about raising the age for those who were eligible for Social Security. Is that in or out as far as the President is concerned?
MR. McCLELLAN: See, here we go again trying to get me to negotiate solutions from this podium. (Laughter.)
Q No, it's not negotiating. You said there are options on the table. Is that an option on the table?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has outlined his principles. We're going to be talking with members of Congress about how we get this solved and how we proceed forward --
Q You only had one out of three, can you answer mine? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: -- how we proceed forward to get this done. April, we're trying to solve problems. And you don't necessarily do that by getting into negotiations or discussions from this podium. You do that by working closely with members of Congress to solve the problems, and that's what we're going to continue to do.
Q Think of it as a principle, not a negotiation.
MR. McCLELLAN: I know you all are all committed to fixing Social Security, as well. At least the younger ones in here.
Q The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that parliament can now go ahead and legalize same-sex marriage. What is your reaction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President's views are very clear about the sanctity of marriage. In terms of actions other countries take, those are internal matters for those countries and questions are best directed to those countries.
Q What do you think about the possibility of Americans going up to Canada to get married, as opposed to doing it here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President, again, made his views very clear when it comes to protecting the sanctity of marriage here in the United States of America, and his position has not changed.
Q The President also today said that his -- much of his thinking on Social Security is colored by the late Senator Moynihan's work in this area. Well, one of the former members of the commission came out after the meeting and indicated that one of the approaches taken -- which was not tantamount to a tax increase -- was to link benefit increases to prices, rather than wages. And he said that that was one of the approaches that they took and that it is not a tax increase. And I'd just like to know if that is an approach that would not violate the President's principles against raising taxes?
MR. McCLELLAN: And that was Mr. Saving. The President talked about him earlier and appreciated his service on the commission, along with Senator Moynihan and all the others that were on the commission.
The President, as I've said from this podium, is looking to work closely with members of Congress to address this issue and to solve this unfunded liability. We'll be talking to them about all these issues and about how we proceed forward and get to that step where we solve this problem. His views have been made clear, in terms of the principles that should guide us going forward. And there are a lot of different ideas out there. There are a lot of people that want to solve this problem and they have different ways of getting there. We want to try to bring everybody together to come up with a common solution that we can all support, and that's what the President is going to do. But it's going to be guided by his principles. And beyond that, we have not endorsed a specific legislative plan.
And I know some of you are asking some questions about specific legislative ideas, and we will be talking more about this as we move forward on this priority. We're still in this transition period to a second term. We're in a transition in terms of personnel; we're in a transition in terms of policy. These are issues we're talking through internally; these are issues we're talking with congressional leaders about how is the best way to proceed forward. And that's the spirit in which we're going to keep working.
I appreciate your questions and your interest in trying to advance this forward for us, but we think it's best to work with those congressional leaders to advance it forward, because that's how you get things done in this town.
END 1:25 P.M. EST
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