THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY CHIEF OF STAFF ERSKINE BOWLES ON THE BUDGET The Stakeout
1:30 P.M. EDT
Q Thank you for coming out.
MR. BOWLES: Sure. Good afternoon. I've just returned from Capitol Hill, where I've been meeting with the Republican leadership in the Congress. And I'm pleased to say that we have made some progress. And as much as I know these guys want to go home and begin their campaigns, we do have some more work to do, particularly in the area of education.
It is essential to the Democrats in the Congress, it is vitally important to the people in this country and it is of utmost importance to the President that we do two things in the area of education to add to the agenda that's already been approved: that's in the area of reducing the size of classrooms so that teachers can actually teach, and adding 100,000 additional teachers to the school system. And, secondly, in the area of modernizing our classrooms so we have an environment where kids can actually learn. Those are the two areas that we focused on this morning. We hope to make some progress on that in the days ahead.
Q You were in the Speaker's office, what did you talk to the Speaker about and what are the hang-up areas?
MR. BOWLES: The two hang-up areas principally to us are in the areas of education -- they're reducing class size and modernizing the classrooms.
Q Mr. Bowles, how directly is the President involved in this process?
MR. BOWLES: Since I've talked to him twice in the last two minutes, I'd say he's very involved.
Q Could you elaborate a little bit? Is he making calls? Is he meeting with the budget people here or with you?
MR. BOWLES: He's met with me several times today. I've talked to him on the phone any number of times. You can't be much more involved than he is. We're keeping him up to date. He's challenging where we are. He's making sure we stay focused on education, which is his key area of difference we have now.
Q So you're saying that's the only thing that's holding this up at this point? You say there are two points, and both of them deal with education?
MR. BOWLES: I didn't say that was the only thing holding us up. I said we have made progress in a number of areas; we have a good ways to go in a number of other areas. And as badly as these fellows want to go home and begin their campaigns, they're going to have to stay and complete their work. One of the areas where they have the most work to do is in the area of education.
Q How far are you willing to push them on this issue?
MR. BOWLES: We're going to stay here until we can get our work done and we're going to make sure that we have the proper investment in education, in training, in early childhood programs so our kids are prepared to enter school ready to learn, and so they have the skills necessary to compete for those high-wage paying jobs that will be available in the global marketplace.
Q May I have one question? There's one report here that they're going to complete their votes this afternoon, that some of the House members then may go back to their districts to campaign on Columbus Day and tomorrow, then come back about 5:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon -- meantime, the appropriations people would stay here and still work. Is that your understanding?
MR. BOWLES: What I can tell you is the President and the Democratic Party will be here working for the children of America so we have smaller classrooms and more modern facilities for these kids to go to school in.
END 1:33 P.M. EDT