The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 19, 2008

Press Briefing by Dana Perino, and Keith Hennessey, Director of the National Economic Council
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

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11:57 A.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: Good morning -- almost good afternoon. I have a quick statement for you. This morning you've heard from both the President and Secretary Paulson on the steps that are being taken to address the very serious concerns in our financial markets. As the President said, this is a pivotal moment for the U.S. economy. The President is concerned about the impact that the problems in the financial markets would have on all Americans, affecting their family finances and retirement accounts, their ability to get loans for homes, autos and educations, and for the ability of their workplaces to grow and create jobs.

And because of this serious threat to our broader economy and our livelihoods, he determined that it is essential to act. The President has reached out to congressional leadership just recently, within the last hour speaking to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and Senator McConnell. He will be speaking to Congressman Boehner, as well. He thanked them for meeting with his economic advisors last night and for their stated commitment to work with us to get this done.

He believes there is a good understanding of the urgency for Congress to act and he believes we can work together in a bipartisan way to get legislation passed soon.

I have Keith Hennessey, Director of the National Economic Council, here with me today, who can help answer some of your questions about what we're doing and why. But I want to make sure I set your expectations. I think that a lot of you will have questions today that we may not have answers to, especially regarding details of the plan, how it will work, what it will look like, process -- detailed process questions for over the weekend. So we will answer to the greatest extent possible today, and then just keep you updated over the weekend and into next week as we work with Congress on this.

So I'll turn it over to Keith and then I'll answer sort of the political- and process-oriented questions after that, and then take other topics as well. Keith.

MR. HENNESSEY: Thanks, Dana. Good morning. Okay, so I'm going to assume that everyone has seen what the President said and what Secretary Paulson said -- that should be the basis of how you think about this. I think what might be helpful here is for me to zoom out a little bit and just start off with a list of all the different policy actions that we've got going on, because we've got a bunch of different policy changes that are being done under three different parts of the federal government. What I want to try and do is list those and kind of group them for you so you have a bit of a sense of what the different lanes are, if you will.

First, policy actions that the government has already taken, especially in recent days and weeks. So we've got the conservatorship for Fannie and Freddie. Treasury and Fed worked over the last weekend, they were up in New York working with firms in the industry. We had the Fed taking steps just a couple days ago to prevent what they would call the disorderly liquidation of AIG, the insurance company. And then the Fed has been increasing significant amounts of liquidity into the financial system to keep things moving.

Both the severity of an underlying root cause of this problem, plus the urgency of what Secretary Paulson, Chairman Bernanke and the President's other advisors saw going on in the financial markets over the recent days led them to conclude that more action was needed and that that action had to be urgent. And so what you've got is you've got more aggressive action happening. You've got policies that are being implemented by Treasury, the Fed and SEC. So you've got Treasury, which is implementing this new program of insurance for money market mutual funds; you have the Fed, which is providing significant amounts of more liquidity to those money market mutual funds, and that's related to commercial paper -- that's a new change over the past 24 hours, announced at 8:30 a.m. this morning -- and then you have the SEC announcing some actions having to do with short selling of stocks.

So that's your new information since yesterday, really, in addition to all the things that have come before.

Then the other one is the big new policy proposal, which is the legislative proposal. This is what Secretary Paulson, Chairman Bernanke and Chairman Cox went up last night to brief the Congress on, and that's to urge Congress to pass legislation for the federal government to purchase illiquid assets from banks and other financial institutions.

The most obvious example of an illiquid asset is a mortgage asset, a mortgage-backed security that's probably lost value as the values of the homes that are underlying those mortgages have declined.

And what's happening is, as those assets have lost value, people don't want to buy them, they become illiquid, it's hard for people to buy and sell them, and so they're stuck on the balance sheets of financial institutions.

What that does is it both threatens the health of the financial institutions and it restricts the ability of those who need money to borrow, to find money to borrow from those institutions. The first has been applying significant pressure to our financial system, and the second has a direct effect on the broader economy.

And then in addition, Treasury announced that they are using some authorities that they started to use with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac action for both Treasury and the GSEs to buy more mortgage-backed securities.

Now, the President said -- I'm sure you heard him -- that he believes that the government should intervene in a marketplace only when necessary. It is clearly necessary now. The things that we've been seeing in the markets over the past several days made it unequivocal that we had to take action quickly. And so that's what we're doing.

The President went out there -- this is a very bold set of actions, we are calling on Congress to do something that is very big and that we believe needs to be done quickly. The time frames of Washington and Wall Street can be very different. And the time frames of Wall Street over the past several months have sometimes changed from one day to the next or even within a day. The time frames of Congress often operate much more slowly.

And so one of the things you heard Secretary Paulson say -- and this was one of the reasons for the meeting last night with the bipartisan leaders -- is this is not only extremely important for our economy to continue to move forward for our economy, for the financial markets to get some confidence back so they can start operating in a normal fashion, but it's also very urgent, and that's why we're hoping that we'll be able to work with Congress to get it done next week.

With that I'll take some questions. Yes.

Q Thanks. What was the main driver behind making this proposal to Congress? Was there a fear that there it would draw on money market funds?

MR. HENNESSEY: I think it's a broader set of concerns, but that's one of them. You're seeing the concerns in the economy at large, but you're also seeing the possibility of direct impacts on millions of Americans.

If you have a money market mutual fund you're used to that being a very low-risk investment, and you're also used to being able to call up your broker and say, hey, I need to be able to withdraw money from that fund today.

And so we were seeing that there was a significant enough risk that either of those things might start to be jeopardized, and you don't want that to happen because there is something like $2 trillion in money market funds -- about $700 billion on a retail, the individual side, and then institutions put a lot of money in. So when those markets don't operate normally, it can have effects on millions of people.

A similar one was with AIG. AIG provides insurance to a lot of 401(k) plans. If AIG had failed in a sudden fashion, a disorderly fashion and that had had direct impacts on people's 401(k) plans, you would be seriously shaking the confidence of a lot of people in their retirement security, and obviously you don't want to have that happen.

In addition, another point is that, in addition to the big firms that rely on these markets, these short-term markets, to run their daily operations, you have millions of people who are getting student loans, car loans, home loans, loans for their small businesses, and they rely on this liquidity. They rely on the ability to be able to go to someone and negotiate the terms for a loan. If that doesn't happen, it has repercussions throughout the economy. The consequences of inaction here were crystal clear and were far worse, far more severe, than any concerns about the consequences of the action.

Q Let me ask one more thing. The President talked about basically warning in Congress against what's called controversial proposals that would delay action. I think most people see a need, or lawmakers on the Hill seem to see the need for quick action, but at the same time, making a statement like that seems to be asking them to be basically a rubber stamp and not to be involved in the process; basically saying to them, we have a proposal, this is the only one. You can vote for it or be responsible for a collapse. Is that fair?

MR. HENNESSEY: No, I wouldn't go there. Note that before these were announced, Paulson and Cox and Bernanke went down last night, sat down with bipartisan leaders, the leaders, both sides of the aisle in both Houses, with the Chairman and ranking members of the relevant committees of jurisdictions. They walked them through it. They said, for instance, on the big new legislative proposal, here's what we want to do; here's the goal; we have some specific ideas about how to do it; we want to work with you on those ideas.

The important thing here is achieving the goal of dealing with these illiquid assets on the balance sheets, and we clearly are very willing to work with the members of Congress to figure out the best way to get that done. It has to be done quickly.

Q You say there is room for negotiation on how it happens?

MR. HENNESSEY: I assume that there will be. I assume that the leaders who are probably still processing what they've learned over the last 12-18 hours -- and we've had very positive signs from the leaders, from the committees. And so we think that -- we're optimistic it will move as fast as it needs to.


Q Can you give us any more of a ballpark of the ultimate size of this program, the program involving MBS and illiquid assets. And also -- the President also talked about looking forward to working with Congress on the transparency reforms. Is that something you really anticipate getting done this year?

MR. HENNESSEY: On the first point, I'm sure you heard Secretary Paulson say hundreds of billions of dollars. I can't add anything more to that, other than to say that the goal is clear: We need for this to be a significant enough amount that it will have a clear and decisive impact on solving a root cause of this underlying problem going forward.

As for more specifics on the number, I don't have anything to add beyond what Secretary Paulson said.

Q And what about the transparency?

MR. HENNESSEY: Oh, and the transparency. We hope so. Obviously more transparency is better for these markets. You saw, I'm sure, what Chairman Cox did at the SEC with transparency and short selling from certain financial institutions. We'd like that to happen. I just don't know yet, because frankly the briefings -- sorry, not the briefings -- the interactions with the Hill folks are just starting to occur, so we have to see what feedback we can get from them.

Yes, sir.

Q Was this a slow-moving train to get to this point and, if so, whose job was it to sort of spot the trouble a month ago, six months ago? And I think secondarily, people want to know who's to blame? Because when you can't get a loan for a house or for a car or to pay for education, people are looking for answers.

MR. HENNESSEY: On your -- the first part of your question was "it" a slow moving train. What do you mean by "it"?

Q To get to the point where the financial markets are falling like dominoes, where you wake up on a Monday and over the span of two or three weeks you've seen all these major components of the economy essentially falling apart, needing you to be propped, rescued outright, or purchased by some other entity.

MR. HENNESSEY: I don't think I would say that this is something that has just been happening over the past two to three weeks. We have seen stresses throughout our financial system since earlier on this year. The credit market problems have been clear, but they change throughout time. We saw these first -- they first manifested in the market obviously back in August of 2007.

Obviously, what happens is when you start to approach certain situations, things can happen quite quickly. But if you take an issue like the GSEs -- all right, so the financial status of the GSEs changed quite rapidly in June and July. Now, the President had been calling for GSE reform since 2003. We didn't get the cooperation that we needed on Capitol Hill to make that happen, to address the underlying systemic risk.

So I don't think now is the time for us to be trying to figure out who's to blame -- and frankly, this is such a big set of policy actions, we need to focus on what we need to do now to address the underlying problems now. But the President has been pushing for systemic reforms in several of these areas and I think this stresses the importance of enacting them.

Yes, sir.

Q Just to follow up a little bit on what you expect to see in negotiations with Capitol Hill over the next few days. First of all, time frame -- I know that there's been some signals this can get done within a week. What do you expect from this weekend, in particular? And also, in terms of how narrow the focus will be, is it just legislative action to purchase the illiquid assets or get those off the books? Or will the Democrats be able to, for instance, press for a second stimulus package, that kind of thing? How narrow will the scope be?

MR. HENNESSEY: As to what I expect over the next several days, I expect the experts -- especially at Treasury and the Fed -- to be engaging with the committees of jurisdiction, the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee. They'll be meeting with both sets of staffs. They will be sharing ideas that the President's advisors have been discussing, share the end goal, and we hope make significant progress. I mean, what we'd like to see is we'd like to see some bipartisan agreement on first the framework and then you get into the details and then you're drafting legislation.

I can't tell you on how rapidly a time frame that will occur because the discussions are just now beginning. But clearly, if legislation is going to move this week, you've got to make significant substantive process on the details this weekend. And from a market standpoint, it needs to move this week.

As for what's going to be packaged with it, that's a question we'll see throughout the week. The President has clearly stated his preference: This is important, it needs to be done quickly. And in my experience, the way to get something done quickly is for it to be done cleanly. There are lots of other issues where there are big differences among various members of Congress and with the administration. I think our hope would be that those not slow this down.


Q As you formulate these plans, does the White House have some specifics that they want to see included such as maybe a cap on how much of these mortgage-backed securities the government is willing to take on? Is that something that you would legislate and how much you're willing to pay for them, i.e., how much pain will these financial institutions suffer or endure as a result of bad lending decisions or just freezing up?

MR. HENNESSEY: One of the things that we've seen is that you need to have flexibility both in your economy and in the tools that you have to address the problems as they're cropping up. And so I expect that the Treasury team and the Fed team will be emphasizing that they need a wide range of tools so that they can deal with these issues and so that as they are looking at illiquid assets they have the flexibility they need. Treasury right now has certain authorities to purchase mortgage-backed securities. Secretary Paulson believes that if he's got authority to do a broader range of assets, he can better help solve that underlying problem.

As for specific details like the one you asked, I expect those will be the subject of the discussions over the weekend.

Q But should the -- should these institutions bear some consequence for these kinds of instruments that they've created and sort of frozen themselves up?

MR. HENNESSEY: I think a lot of them are -- at least, that's what we've been seeing from the financial market results throughout the week.

As for whether or not policy should drive that, I'll let that be a result of the bipartisan discussions.

Q I'm hearing protection for institutions -- to protect the system overall. Democrats are talking about trying to protect individual mortgage holders. Can they get there?

MR. HENNESSEY: Well, I think you need to do -- I think what you need to do is you need to restore confidence and strengthen stability in the financial system. So I think -- I wouldn't be talking about institutions, I would be saying the importance here is the financial system, because the financial system is what allows you to withdraw funds from your money market mutual fund, what allows you to have the confidence that your 401(k) is going to be there or that your kid is going to be able to get a student loan while he's in college. So the system is what allows individuals to do the things that they need to do.

As for discussions about individual homeowners, I expect --we've had ongoing discussions with Capitol Hill all year. The focus right now here is on restoring confidence to the financial system so that the individuals who benefit from it, which is everyone in this room and everyone watching, can get those benefits and so that they can keep moving forward.

Q Keith, can you talk a little bit, as best you can, about what kinds of mortgage-backed assets you're talking about getting from the banks?

MR. HENNESSEY: Illiquid ones. That's not -- that's not a flippant answer. The reality is, is that's the signal that we want to send right now, is illiquid assets, which are the ones that are weighing down the balance sheets. As for the specifics, I imagine that those will be determined both by the discussion on Capitol Hill, and I believe that our hope is that Secretary Paulson and his team will have a lot of flexibility from that legislation so that they can evaluate the situation on the ground.

Q That's a pretty broad term, though, "illiquid." Is there a couple of examples that would be included?

MR. HENNESSEY: I don't think it would be appropriate for me to start talking about specific types of assets beyond what the President and Secretary Paulson have said, which is, for instance, mortgage-backed securities that are currently illiquid. I'm not going to add anything further to that.

Q So that's being negotiated with Congress --

MR. HENNESSEY: Well, that is something that we intend to discuss with Congress. And the desire here is for the Secretary to have the maximum flexibility to address the problems at hand.

Q Keith, on AIG, please -- good thing you have broad shoulders. First of all, on AIG, since it's a loan, will AIG pay interest to the federal insurers or to the U.S. Treasury?

MR. HENNESSEY: I don't remember. I'd ask you to consult the Fed, which was the activating agent with that deal, for the terms of the AIG.

Q And has the U.S. government cosigned or guaranteed the AIG loan?

MR. HENNESSEY: Secretary Paulson gave a letter which indicated his support for what the Fed was doing. I don't think that I would characterize it the way that you've described it.

Okay, yes.

Q A lot of your comments seem to be pushing back against some of the criticism or concerns expressed by some, particularly Republican lawmakers, who are saying that this does not -- the actions taken are not, in one guy's words, a "return to free enterprise economy." What would you say, from your perspective, is missing, either from their -- the data they're getting, or from the way that they would like things to progress from here?

MR. HENNESSEY: I think properly functioning markets, smoothly functioning markets are essential to a free market economy. This President has always been averse to government intervention in markets, and he only has wanted to do that when it's been necessary. It is clearly necessary now, as those markets are not functioning properly. And so what we're doing is we're intervening in a very decisive way to restore confidence that is needed in those markets so that they can function properly again.

Last one.

Q Are you looking at empowering the Treasury to do this buyout by itself, or -- there's been talk of possibly creating something like the RTC that was created for the S&L crisis.

MR. HENNESSEY: On a broad basis, it's the Treasury. As to whether the Treasury would in fact delegate some of that authority to someone else, that's still an item under discussion. I think -- I'd also like to take the opportunity just to correct something. The RTC term has been used quite frequently in the discussion around this question. Remember, the RTC was an organization that was buying assets or taking assets and disposing of them from institutions after they had failed. What we're talking about here is institutions which are still operating and going in and providing liquidity to their bad assets on their balance sheets.

So it's a different model, which is, you're trying to ensure that the firms that make up our financial sector right now can continue to move forward.

Q Keith, one last question. Can you tell us what the impact will be on the deficit and on the national debt of this program?

MR. HENNESSEY: All I can tell you is that Secretary Paulson has said that he thinks that hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to address this underlying problem. I can't give you any more specifics than that at this point.

Thanks a lot.

Q One last question, please.

MS. PERINO: I'll see if I can answer it. But he doesn't have -- he's consulting with Congress.

Q Well, all right. When he was talking, he was saying -- talking about the illiquid assets, but isn't there somewhat of a cycle? You have new construction still happening in the nation when homes are not selling. So what happens with that? I mean, it seems like it's going to be a continual cycle. What is the stopgap measure? Where do you stop? Do you move back into another infusion of illiquid assets? What?

MS. PERINO: I think that's what we're trying to address, which is, how do we make sure that we can unstick the system? We need more grease through the system, and that's what Treasury is talking about doing. And they'll work on the details with it on -- over the weekend. As you see, we get numbers almost every week or every other week that give us the measurements of how the economy is doing when it comes to housing starts or construction. And we know that there's a spiral effect or a domino effect when you have illiquid assets.

And so one of the root causes that we're trying to address is this problem of assets not moving and not -- and people not being able to borrow, and that's one of the reasons you have seen some downturn. But the other problem is, in the housing market, is you've had an excess of supply and there's not enough demand, and we need to have that equal out. And that's part of the cycle. I can't tell you -- I'm not sure if I'm answering your question directly, but --

Q You're trying to, but, I mean, it's -- I guess it's cause and effect. You have construction that deals with jobs, but you have construction that puts new homes out there, and you're trying to deal with the illiquid assets. And then you have another group of homes that are not going to sell, people are not buying homes. What do you do with that new construction that's happening? Are you trying -- are you going to ask -- do something for contractors throughout the company [sic], give them some kind of boost to help them in the time when they need to slow down on construction?

MS. PERINO: You know, I don't believe that there's any particular provision that will specifically address just construction issues. But, you know, let us look -- let's let us work with Congress over the weekend and then if we have details for you, we'll give it.

Q And another thing. The President said it's not time to play the blame game, but John McCain yesterday made a very bold statement, talking about the head of the SEC, that he needs to -- he threw him under the bus, said he needs to step down. What say you?

MS. PERINO: As I said yesterday, the Chairman of the SEC enjoys the President's confidence and support. There's going to be a lot said on the campaign trail, and I'm not going to respond to every political volley.

Q This was from the candidate, the Republican candidate.

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to respond to every political volley. We will state the facts, which is, as we have tried to do today, to provide you as much information as possible based on our past actions, our past proposals, and what we're going to be doing over the weekend. So I'll let the campaign reporters sort out opinion, but we'll just look at the facts from where we sit. We have 44 or 45 more days to go.

Go ahead, Roger.

Q Two questions. Is Mr. Paulson over here again this afternoon for any reason?

MS. PERINO: I can let you know. I don't know. I mean, they've got a lot of work to do and I think they need to be over there. He and the President speak by phone quite frequently during the day.

Q But you don't know if he's physically over here.

MS. PERINO: I don't see any need for him to be here over the next few hours, but if he comes we'll let you know.

Q Okay, thanks. And also, did -- Congress is supposed to adjourn on the 26th. Did they -- was there any talk about moving that date back a week or anything? Did they give any pledge that, yes, we will try to do it by the end of next week?

MS. PERINO: I think that everyone understands the seriousness of the situation. The President, when he just spoke to the three leaders -- and he's going to try to reach out to Boehner later today and connect with him -- he believes that there is an understanding that we need to work together to make this happen; there's an understanding that it needs to be done as quickly as possible -- and as you heard Keith say, as cleanly as possible, because the surest way to get something done quickly is to make sure that it's as clean as possible. That doesn't mean there can't be discussions about what this proposal would look like -- that's exactly what we're going to be doing with the Congress over the weekend.

But I think when it comes to suggestions of maybe attaching extraneous proposals that maybe are loves of a certain member of Congress onto a proposal like this, we would ask that people refrain from that so that we can get this one done as quickly and as cleanly as possible.

I did not hear anybody say that Congress would not -- would move their recess date; they are planning to recess next Friday. That's one of the reasons we want to move so quickly. I'd have to refer you to them, if they think they need more time, but I have not heard them say that.

Q Dana, on that point, you said that there's an understanding that they need to move as quickly as possible. Did the President and the leaders discuss the second half of that, of "as cleanly as possible," that this bill -- this legislation --

MS. PERINO: He didn't get into the specifics with them. And I actually wasn't there for the conversation, I was just given a readout of it. So I think that what we'll do is just work over the weekend. They know our position, Secretary Paulson laid it out very clearly for them last night, and then the President followed up today and thanked them for their stated commitments to work with us to get this done as quickly as possible.

Q Dana, can you just give us a little bit -- what do you expect this weekend -- I mean, in terms of nuts and bolts? Are the meetings here, are they at Treasury, are they on the Hill? How --

MS. PERINO: I don't know. I don't think there will be a lot of meetings necessarily here at the White House, though White House officials and senior economic advisors will be working to support the Treasury and the two other independent agencies that are working on this. We work with Congress quite a lot; we have staff that has regular and frequent contact with them. The President will be kept updated over the weekend. I think it's just too early for us to tell exactly how it will play out, but the Treasury Department's public affairs office, the Fed's public affairs office and the SEC's will be available over the weekend -- and you know that we always are, too.

Q Going back to what the President said about not adding controversial provisions that could delay action. What specifically did he have in mind?

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to discuss it.

Q Why not?

MS. PERINO: Because I think that the best thing to do is to let this proposal work its way through the system, let the Congress digest the information that we have just laid out for them. There are a lot of big changes here, a lot of new policies, and this is unprecedented action, historical by nature when it comes to fixing our economy. And I think that allowing this process to play itself out -- let us work on the proposals and we'll take it from there. We're not going to discuss the details.


Q We heard from the President at the beginning of the week in the photo op and then the statement yesterday and today. Could you walk us through some of the rest of his involvement, to the extent that you can?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that I've kept you pretty informed over the past week about the President's calls with Secretary Paulson, his meetings that he's had over here. I've tried as hard as possible to make sure that you have a tick-tock of the various activities.

I do want to make one point. In a 24/7 news cycle, a President of the United States or any organization that is dealing with a situation that is quite dynamic, that needs hands-on attention from a management perspective -- but just because the President isn't addressing the media in every single news cycle does not mean he is not leading. And I've seen some suggestions that -- he was being criticized for not speaking to the media and to the American public on Tuesday and Wednesday. I spoke on his behalf during those days, trying to keep you as updated as possible.

And there comes a time when you have to set aside the knowledge that we're going to be criticized for the communication from the White House. It's either too slow, too fast, too much, too little, too big, too small -- and we had to set that aside and focus on what we needed to do, which was to have the President in the lead, working with his team and directing them and providing guidance and supporting them as they made really big, important decisions about our economy going forward.

Q Can you just sort of -- how much time did he spend with Paulson last night, as this came together?

MS. PERINO: I don't have -- I didn't tally it up for you. I can just tell you he spent a significant amount of time with his senior economic advisors. It's not just Secretary Paulson that he has worked with, but Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the SEC Chairman Chris Cox; as well as Josh Bolten, his Chief of Staff; his Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Kaplan; Ed Gillespie, his Counselor. You've had Eddie Lazear, the Chairman of the CEA involved; I've been there; your favorite principal deputy press secretary, Tony Fratto, has been around. I mean, we -- it's all hands on deck, because it has to be.

Q On the topic of the auto industry loans, has the administration decided whether to back funding for the $25 billion loan program that President Bush signed into law last year?

MS. PERINO: The actions that we're talking about today do not address specific firms. And recognizing that, as I said the other day, in the December 2007 energy bill, there was a provision regarding a $25 billion loan for very specific activities for the auto industry. I think I'd have to refer you to Congress right now to move forward -- on whether or not they're going to move forward on appropriating those funds.

Q Dana, is it that they consider that as part of the C.R. but they're waiting to hear from the White House as to whether it would back that funding?

MS. PERINO: I didn't know that it was back on our plate. I don't even think that we've seen their C.R. plan or what's going to be in their C.R. So we'll continue to keep you updated. I just don't have anything specific to add to what I've already said this week.


Q Dana, two quick questions.

MS. PERINO: On this subject?

Q No, different.

MS. PERINO: Okay. I'm going to stick with Goyal. Go ahead.

Q Twenty-six September is the last day of Congress, and also they have set up the schedule to vote on the 123 U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. The Prime Minister of India is coming here to the White House to meet with President Bush on the 25th. Do you think this agreement will go through, because that's only, I think, chance we have.

MS. PERINO: That's a good question. The 123 agreement that we have been working with India and then with our Congress on is critically important to energy security and also for the environment. We do believe that there's significant support in Congress that would allow us to get this through. I hope that they would be able to get it done next week. And one of the reasons Prime Minister Singh will come to the White House is to help push that over the line so that we can get it done.

We'll keep you updated and see if there's anything more to add. I would encourage you to check with the Senate to see if they have it on the schedule.

Q And second, as far as --

MS. PERINO: I'm going to let you go. We've been going for half an hour.

END 12:28 P.M. EDT

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