THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS The Oval Office
2:22 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to say something about the discussions now going on about the rescission bill. First of all, for me, this is not a partisan issue at all -- this is about pork. And in this pork battle, Democrats aren't blameless either. This is about pork over people.
Now, let's look at what happened. I worked hard with the Senate to get a big deficit reduction bill that would protect people and education and our efforts to raise the incomes of the American people as much as possible. Then they went into conference behind closed doors and took out a lot of the people programs that will raise incomes and increase security to put in pork.
There's one congressional district with nine road projects in it; one courthouse cost over $100 million. And those two things alone will take over $200 million away from our efforts to make sure our children go to safe schools, to make sure that we can fund our National Service Program to let young people do community service work and earn money to go to college. There is even a project in there that gives a million dollars to a city street. Now, what's the federal government got to do in that?
You know, if we're going to bring this budget into balance, we're going to have to make a lot of tough decisions, we're going to have to have a lot of serious cuts. And we have to change the way we do things here, and we have to be very careful about how we spend the money we do spend. We've got to spend it on things that matter like education and training and building up the American people.
So, that's my position. If they'll get rid of the pork, we can have a bill.
Q Mr. President, your administration isn't blameless, either, though, is it? These aren't programs that were just put in. These are programs that were put in the budget that you signed off on and Democrats approved. If it's pork -- wasn't it pork then? Why did you approve it?
THE PRESIDENT: Because we're going to cut $16 billion out. Because a $100 million courthouse is not as important to raising incomes as the School-to-Work Program to give young people who don't go to four-year universities a chance to get good training, or as a program for women and infants to make sure they're properly nourished, or as a program to let our young people work in their communities and earn money to go to college. It just doesn't compute.
There's nowhere near -- you know, special interest road projects, nine in one congressional district, are not as important as giving our teachers the training they need to make sure our students reach world-class standards in education. The judgments are wrong. If we're going to get serious about continuing the spending cuts and continuing the cuts in the deficit, moving this thing to balance, we cannot afford to choose pork over people.
It is a very simple choice, and it has nothing to do with partisan politics. And if they will fix it, we can have a bill.
Q If they will put the AmeriCorps program back in and fully fund that, would that be enough for you? Would you then let the rescission bill go through?
THE PRESIDENT: For one thing, on AmeriCorps, I didn't ask for AmeriCorps to be fully funded at the level that we funded it in our budget. I only asked that it be funded at the level that the Senate -- the United States Senate passed a rescission bill with a bipartisan vote. And all I asked the conference to do was to leave the people programs, the education programs in at the Senate level. I asked the conference also to take out some very harmful language on the environment dealing with the forests in the Pacific Northwest which will cause us all kinds of legal problems and headaches. I hope that can be modified as well.
But I accepted some cuts in every -- I think we're going to have to look at everything for cuts, but what I asked was that we not cut below what the Senate did. And what happened was, they cut below what the Senate did to stick in a bunch of pork projects. And that wasn't right.
And I want to say this: To the people of Oklahoma and California and Louisiana and the other states who need the emergency aid, they can get that aid today, they can get that aid tomorrow with more deficit reduction than is in this bill that came out of the conference if the Congress will just take out the pork and put back the people.
Q Can I ask you one question on Secretary Brown? Are you concerned, sir, that the investigation of Secretary Brown and other Cabinet officials is giving at least a perception they haven't lived up to --
THE PRESIDENT: Read what the Attorney General's referral said, and I think you will see why I asked him to stay on.
Q I don't understand --
Q What about the decision to hold Whitewater hearings, Mr. President? Do you want to react to that -- the decision on Whitewater in the Senate?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END2:27 P.M. EDT