White House Briefing


Monday  April 21, 2003 1047PST

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary April 21, 2003 PRESS GAGGLE BY CLAIRE BUCHAN Aboard Air Force One En Route Andrews Air Force Base 1:47 P.M. EDT MS. BUCHAN: Just briefly, the President did begin his day this morning with his regular intelligence briefing before coming back to Washington. And we're happy to take your questions. QUESTION: Is that USA Today story correct about reworking the tax cut plan dramatically? MS. BUCHAN: The President has said he is committed to working to get the Congress to enact at least $550 billion, which includes the full 100 percent dividend exclusion for the double taxation of dividends, all of the rate cut accelerations. And we're going to work with Congress to determine exactly the best way to do that. But the President is committed to the full plan and at least $550 billion in relief -- Q: -- isn't phased in over a few years? MS. BUCHAN: Well, as I said, the President thinks that the best thing to do is to get the most help to American workers and the economy as possible, as fast as we can. That's why he proposed the plan he put forward, and that's still the plan we're working to enact, because it was designed with specific challenges in the economy in mind, aimed at addressing those specific challenges. And we continue to believe that the economic data does nothing but reaffirm that that was the right plan and that we should go forward with it. Q: But the story is suggesting the White House is going forward by trying to help figure out how to do it and how to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. MS. BUCHAN: I saw the report. There were actually a number of reports. There are a number of ways to go at getting the package. And we're pursuing working with Congress right now. Q: It sounds like you're trying to tell us that this isn't really the way that the administration wants to go. MS. BUCHAN: As I said, the President is committed to getting at least $550 billion, and to doing so in such a way as to get the 100 percent dividend exclusion, to get all the acceleration of all the rates, the child credit, the marriage penalty relief. All of these are important components that will get money back into people's hands, that will allow businesses to invest, and that will give our economy the boost that it needs. Q: Then what is he giving up to go from $726 billion to $550 billion? What won't be in the package? MS. BUCHAN: Well, he's said at least $550 billion. So as I said, there are a number of ways to work with Congress to try and accomplish this. And we're in the process of doing that right now. Q: How specifically is he promoting or selling this to some key senators? Is he going to be meeting with them individually this week? Is he calling them? A lot of them, obviously, are home, but how is he reaching out to them? MS. BUCHAN: I think most of them are home. And as you know, we have, over the congressional recess -- the two weeks of the congressional recess -- we've got about 30 members of the President's Cabinet, sub-Cabinet out on the road, doing some 75 or more events to promote the plan. And in addition, the President had events last week. I think you can expect that he'll continue to be active. As you know, he's traveling out of Washington later this week to do both promote his jobs and growth plan and to talk about progress in the war in Iraq. Q: Is he calling the senators personally, though? MS. BUCHAN: I don't have anything on specific calls. If we have anything and can update you on it, we will. But prior to the congressional recess, he had members down. As you know, some of them came out to the stakeout. He talked to some separately. Q: Can you tell us any more about the trip later this week, where he's going, what day? MS. BUCHAN: Tomorrow we'll have more for you on that. Q: What about North Korea? Are the talks on? Mr. Kelly would have had to leave today if they were on, so I assume -- MS. BUCHAN: I think the State Department is going to be having more on that, if they haven't already, today. Q: What about a speech this week? Can we -- would we be looking toward any kind of major speech from the President, vis-a-vis the war, this week? MS. BUCHAN: As you know, the President is traveling outside of Washington. If you're asking me -- not that I'm aware of, but we'll keep you posted on his schedule. Q: Was there an NSC meeting this morning? MS. BUCHAN: No. Q: Is the President angry at Voinovich and Snowe? MS. BUCHAN: I think the President understands that this is a process. And we're going to work very hard to get enough votes to get the plan through. The President thinks American workers deserve every bit of that $550 billion and more. And that's what the President's going to be focused on. Q: Do you guys have any comment on the South Koreans setting talks with the North Koreans separately, I think later in the month? MS. BUCHAN: Well, we believe that this is a multilateral issue. And I think as the President indicated yesterday, with the Chinese, with the South Koreans and the Japanese. It's, I think, being made very clear that this is a regional issue and an issue that we're obviously pleased to see cooperation among the nations in that region. Q: -- South Koreans talking to the North Koreans on their own? MS. BUCHAN: As I said, it is a multilateral issue. And the President, I think, expressed his thoughts on this yesterday. Q: Are bilateral talks ruled out? MS. BUCHAN: With North Korea and the United States? I think we've made clear that this is an issue that needs to be addressed in a multilateral forum. Anything else? Q: Anything on that chemical weapons -- possible chemical weapons find on the front page of the New York Times today in a story? Anything on sort of what they may have uncovered, whether it's legit, not legit? MS. BUCHAN: I think we need to wait and see with any of these reports. The Iraqis have had years and a massive effort to hide their biological and chemical weapons. So we will wait and see specifically. We've always said that the opportunity to interview Iraqi scientists would be important. But we'll wait and see specifically. Q: Why did the President decide to not attend the Easter egg roll today? MS. BUCHAN: He's traveling back from his ranch. Q: Why did he make his schedule as such that he could not attend it today? MS. BUCHAN: It's the way it's worked out. He's leaving today and he'll arrive after it's essentially over. Q: Bush snubs Easter egg roll. MS. BUCHAN: But he's very pleased, obviously, to be welcoming the 12,000 -- Q: Is it still the administration's view that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, right? MS. BUCHAN: Right. Q: Thank you. END 1:55 P.M. EDT


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