THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JAKE SIEWERT The James S. Brady Briefing Room
11:54 A.M. EDT
MR. SIEWERT: I have no announcements, so I'll take your questions.
Q -- estate tax bill down here yet?
MR. SIEWERT: I haven't seen the tractor pull up, but I don't think we'll waste a lot of time thinking about it. This is a bill that's too expensive, that explodes in costs at a time when we can least afford it. And I don't think you should have any illusions about what the President is going to do. He will veto it because we can provide more meaningful, targeted estate tax relief that provides immediate benefits to farmers and small businesses and doesn't give away the store the way the Republican alternative does.
MR. SIEWERT: We'll move on that very quickly. We'll let you know when we have an exact time and setting for that. But that's something --
Q You mean today, though, or --
MR. SIEWERT: As I said, I don't think we'll waste a lot of time. We haven't seen it yet, so it's a little hard to make that call right now.
Q Another radio address veto?
MR. SIEWERT: I actually would not expect that.
Q I talked to you this morning about any plans for the SPR -- to tap the SPR to -- did you find out anything?
MR. SIEWERT: As we've said for some time now, that we haven't taken any option off the table. But I don't have anything new to say on that today.
Q That was oblique.
MR. SIEWERT: It's actually what we've been saying all along, that we haven't ruled anything out when it comes to the use of the strategic petroleum reserve.
Q Jake, a good deal has been written about your leap to an assumption about the source of the story that a grand jury had been named to investigate the President. Do you withdraw those comments you made last Thursday?
MR. SIEWERT: Well, I don't know that we've seen the full story there. We may never get the full story, given the way reporters work with their sources. I don't know that the Associated Press has ever fully clarified the origin of that story. But we're willing to admit error here if it becomes clear that there was one, and only one, source for that story.
But as I said to people over the weekend, whatever the source of that information, there are a lot of questions that remain. What exactly is the independent counsel embarked on here, after $50 million of expenditure and an 800-page report to Congress, proceedings in both Houses of Congress? The American people are ready to put this behind them and they must be wondering why the independent counsel can't do the same.
Q Jake, any concern about the durable goods drop that was announced today, 12.4 percent? Is it too far, too fast, is there any concern?
MR. SIEWERT: I know we heard that report this morning. I know a lot of these economic indicators are fluctuating quite a bit right now. But we look at long-term trends and we see the long-term trend of the economy is still very sound. We have moderate growth and relatively subdued inflation and we feel the most important thing we can do is focus on the fundamentals and that's what we're doing. That's why the President has put such a heavy emphasis on paying down the debt and using the surplus to do everything we can to reduce the costs of government borrowing and free up as much capital as possible for the private sector.
Q So it's a --
MR. SIEWERT: Well, as I said, we focus on the longer-term trends, and that's what we'll continue to do.
Q Do you expect a departure statement before the President leaves tomorrow?
MR. SIEWERT: Not necessarily. As I said, we may have something to say about the estate tax in the next day or so, but I don't know that we'll have a format to announce today. I'll let you know if that does change.
Q -- after the Fox meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: We'll have a senior administration official come down at 1:30 p.m. or so.
MR. SIEWERT: All right. We'll see you in a Abuja.
END 11:58 A.M. EDT