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Bush Holds News Briefing at Conclusion of Economic Forum

Aired January 4, 2001 - 2:40 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush holding his second day of meetings with the nation's top business leaders, talking about the economy and the future. Getting an earful from people like G.E.'s Jack Welch today, AOL's Steve Case. They are all in a big room down in Austin, Texas. We expect George W. Bush to enter that room any moment and tell us about his meetings with these leaders. Yesterday, he expressed concerns about the economy, after talking with many of them.

And here he comes now. And he is still talking about his plans for a big tax cut when his administration takes over.


PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: ... CEOs from around the country came. These good folks represent some of the finest companies in our country, the high-tech industry. They're job creators and innovators and smart thinkers and we just had a wide-ranging discussion on a lot of topics.

We spent a lot of time talking about education and the need for our country to make sure all children can read so that children can take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that'll be available here in America. We talked a lot about math and science. We talked about job training. We need to make sure that, in the long term, that our work force is able to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities that these folks will be able to provide for them.

In the short term, we talked about the need to recruit and attract some of the brightest minds from around the world to help meet the employment needs of these job creators. We talked about trade, the need for the president and the administration to be a strong advocate of free trade; that our nation should not be afraid of free trade. We ought to welcome free trade because we can compete around the world on all different types of companies and governments.

We talked about the need to have litigation reform, so that capital is not driven out of our economy.

And we talked about how genuinely optimistic we are about the long term for the country, about how they're some concerns for the short term. And, all in all it was a fantastic meeting.

I assured them that I would be available to take phone calls after I'm sworn in, to listen to their concerns. And I look forward to working them. I got to know many during the course of the campaign. And I look forward to continuing my friendship with them once I become the president.

I'd be glad to answer a few questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, a lot of Americans, last year, put investment money into high-tech companies and saw a lot of it get lost. And notwithstanding yesterdays' increase in the stock market, do you have any advice for these Americans who still continue to look at these kinds of companies? And is there really a new economy in your mind, different from the old economy?

BUSH: Well, I would tell people that they ought to look at the quality of management, the long-term strategy, the balance sheets. But I'd get them to get somebody more qualified than me to pick stocks.


But I do think people that have invested in this industry are, in the long term, going to realize good gains on the money they've invested, because this is the leading edge of thought in the world. I mean, these good folks are revolutionizing how businesses conduct their business.

And, like them, I am very optimistic about our position in the world and about and about IT's influence on the United States. We're concerned about the short-term economic news, but long term I'm optimistic. And so, I hope investors, you know -- secondly, I hope investors hold investments for periods of time; that I've always found the best investments are those that you salt away based on economics.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, as you prepare to present your tax cut plan to Congress, are you prepared or at least considering any revisions that might frontload the package with some of the benefits to provide them for immediate stimulant to the economy that you think is necessary?

BUSH: I'm thinking through my strategy. Right now I can assure you that the plan I put forward, the size of the plan I put forward is the size of the plan that is, I think, going to be necessary to help keep this economy strong.

But I haven't thought through the revisions yet. Whether or not we -- you know, the timing of the tax relief is a very interesting question. And I'm open to any suggestions people have, particularly as it relates to making sure that the economy gets the kick-start it needs.

But I'm confident the size of the tax relief plan is the right size.

QUESTION: Can I just follow-up?

BUSH: Sure, please.

QUESTION: There are a couple of specifics that you are at least considering that would provide that kick-start?

BUSH: Well, first of all, I think the tax relief is necessary. The question is, how fast we implement it; whether or not we -- you know, it was phased in over a period of time. It's possible that we may need to implement it faster. And I'd be willing to work with members of the Congress, if that be the case.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, are you surprised by the opposition that seems to be developing to the nominations of Ashcroft, or to Chavez to your Cabinet? And what is your strategy for meeting that opposition?

BUSH: Well, my main strategy is to let each candidate stand up and speak on their own, to talk about their vision, to talk about their heart. I expect all my Cabinet officials will be -- face tough questioning. And I am confident all will be confirmed. These are good, solid Americans who will be able to do the jobs to which I've appointed them.

QUESTION: Are the opponents raising legitimate questions about their qualifications or attitudes?

BUSH: Well, let's wait and see how they are questioned when they go up in front of the Senate. But I'm confident the Senate will give them a good, fair hearing. And I'm confident that when they hear their qualifications and their attitudes and their opinions, that they'll be confirmed.

QUESTION: President-elect, John McCain said he could work on (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Well, John and I discussed this issue, as you might remember, during many a public forum, during the primaries. And I told him and people who were paying attention then that I support a campaign funding reform so long as business and labor are treated equally. And I think it's very important to make sure that there is paycheck protection in any campaign funding reform, so that the playing field is leveled.

But I think so long as somebody doesn't have any -- if money is being spent on behalf of somebody who has no voice, I think we ought to get rid of that kind of money. For example, if corporate America is spending money on behalf of a shareholder and the shareholder has no voice, I think that ought to be banned. So long as the same is applied to labor unions, as well.

QUESTION: If McCain-Feingold came to you as it is now...

BUSH: I'll worry about the ifs, once I get sworn in. But I will tell you that I think it's very important for us to make sure that the bill is fair and balanced. And one way to do that is for there to be paycheck protection, so that a union member will be able to opt out of a union spending money if he or she doesn't like the purpose for which it is being spent. I think that's only fair.

QUESTION: Would that be a veto issue? BUSH: You're back to the hypothetical again.

QUESTION: Do you think Chairman Greenspan may have been trying to send you a signal against a rapid tax cut, a large tax cut in the action he took yesterday?

BUSH: No, I don't think -- I didn't interpret that at all. I think he understands his role and I understand my role. And I think he recognized that there are warning clouds on the horizon for our economy and he took action.

And, no, I don't think he's taking any -- I don't think he's making any statement about fiscal policy from the actions he took.

STAFF: Thank you.

BUSH: Thank you all for coming.

ALLEN: George W. Bush, wrapping up his economic forum, surrounded by industry leaders in the high-tech sector. We will talk now with Major Garrett, who is down there in Austin, Texas.

Mr. Bush not wanting to talk too much about campaign finance reform, which may come up sooner than he may have like. But still eager to get in there and work on a tax cut -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eager to work on a tax cut, and also eager to highlight the agenda of the high-tech world. As he opened his comments, the president-elect touched on almost every issue vital to the high-tech world. He talked about education, high-tech leaders have made it clear that they want education reform so that there are capable workers available in America to fill the jobs.

They also want the -- the ability to import workers from other countries on what are known as a H1B visa. That has been a very controversial issue on Capitol Hill. The high-tech industry has sought to increase the numbers of allowable immigrants to come in, to take positions in the high-tech world. The president-elect identified that as a key issue.

Also, job training high on the high-tech industry's list.

So what you are seeing here is a very careful effort on the part of the president-elect to embrace the high-tech world, to stand there with him for all the world to see that he is an ally of the high-tech world, that adds economic and real-world political benefits for the president-elect.

When he dealt with the issue of the economy, he said long-term, he feels very optimistic about the course of the U.S. economy, but short term, there are clearly warning signs, he said, warning signs that in his mind create the need and the impetus for a large tax cut on Capitol Hill. he said the size will be, as always advertised $1.3 trillion, spread out over 10 years. And when he dealt with the issue of campaign finance reform, he drew what his father might call a line in the sand. That is to say, if there is going to be campaign finance reform, you have got to give individual members of labor unions in this country a right they currently do not have, which is a right to opt out of union dues used for political purposes. That's always been a high priority for the Republicans. Democrats vehemently oppose it. So it looks like we may have a confrontation in the not-to-distance future on campaign finance -- Natalie.

ALLEN: So, Major, this economic forum is over, he has his Cabinet positions nominated. What is next in the transition for George W. Bush other than packing up some boxes?

GARRETT: Packing up some boxes and also making some very key decision about how lo proceed with that legislative agenda on Capitol Hill. The Bush team has made very clear that its education reform bill will be bill number one. Coming very quickly after that will be a tax bill. But as Senator McCain made clear today, one issue the president-elect and his team will have to deal with right out of the box, campaign finance reform. So he could have a scrap on that very early in the Bush term -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Major Garrett in Austin, Texas. Thanks to Major.



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