THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY DURING MEETING WITH DOMESTIC POLICY COUNCIL
The Cabinet Room
10:07 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to make a statement now that we have the Domestic Policy Council here about what is going on in the Senate.
First of all, I'm very encouraged that the Senate Finance Committee is working hard in trying to push the process forward. I want to reemphasize that, to me, in the end, we have to have certain basic principles satisfied: $500 billion in deficit reduction in the trust fund so that all the spending cuts and taxes have to be protected for that; $250 billion of spending cuts; the taxes have to fall primarily on those best able to pay them. Right now, over two-thirds of the taxes fall on people with incomes above $200,000, 75 percent on people with incomes above $100,000. I want the energy tax to be pro-conservation and as broad-based as possible. And I want the initiatives for growth and jobs in there -- the earned income tax credit to encourage the working poor to move out of poverty, the empowerment zones for investment in our cities, the incentives to create jobs. Those are the principles that I want.
I want to remind you all, too, that the Senate and House will naturally have some disagreements. But when we wind up in conference, we can perhaps get the best bill of all. The main thing, until the Senate acts, we can't go to conference and get a final bill to continue this progress.
What the final shape of the energy portion of this will be no one can now say because that will have to await the conference. But I am very encouraged that progress is being made, and I do appreciate the fact that the Senate began consultations with the House yesterday, which is consistent with the commitments that were made on that.
Q Where is the progress?
Q Well, what do you say to Democrats in the House who feel like they walked the plank on the budget for nothing at this point?
THE PRESIDENT: They didn't walk the plank on the budget for nothing. Their budget is going to be part of the conference. And they are being consulted now, and no decision has been made by the Senate yet.
You know, Chairman Moynihan and Senator Mitchell started with the senators who are most hostile to the Btu tax. But they have 11 senators on a committee they have to satisfy. And then they have to get a majority in the body of the Senate. So no decisions have been made yet. And most of those House members with whom I talked in the process of passing the bill through the House only wanted to make sure that the House would also be consulted before the Senate committee finally voted. And we took steps to ensure that, and they began the consultative process yesterday.
Q You've got the Black Caucus apparently so upset that they're not coming to a meeting here. What do you tell those people?
THE PRESIDENT: That is not why there's not going to be a meeting here. But the Black Caucus -- if they want to advocate for the Btu tax -- you know, I like it. I think it's the best and fairest tax. And I think the Secretary of the Treasury made a very good proposal for a modification of it. But neither they nor I have a vote on the Senate Finance Committee. And so we'll just -- but it will be -- the Btu levy will be in the conference, and no decision has been made. I have not signed off on any energy proposal in the Senate yet. I believe that the proposal we made is the best one we have. But neither they nor I have a vote on the Senate Finance Committee.
Let me say, in the end, the most important thing is that we bring the deficit down, that we cut spending, that we raise taxes on the wealthy, and that we invest money to grow this economy. That's the most important thing. We've got to find a way to do that consistent with what has happened already. And I'm very encouraged. I don't think -- the American people shouldn't be upset by what's going on. And I -- the House -- they should go talk to their senators if they have a different view and they want them to take a different view toward these particular taxes. That's what I'm trying to do, is to get the House and the Senate to work together before the Senate Finance Committee even votes.
Q Why are there troops on the ground in Macedonia, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: To limit the conflict. As we said all along, the United Nations -- we would support the United Nations in limiting the conflict. It's a very limited thing. No combat, but an attempt to limit the conflict.
Q Thank you.
END10:11 A.M. EDT