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House Speaker Hastert Backs Bush's Tax Cut Proposal

Aired January 31, 2001 - 4:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We told you earlier that President Bush had his first Cabinet meeting today. And during that meeting he told reporters and photographers that he does intend to pursue his agenda. And while the president was wrapping up his Cabinet meeting today, the Republican House speaker, Dennis Hastert, was sitting down for an interview with CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl, who joins us now -- John.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, it was a wide-ranging discussion with Speaker Hastert, much of which centered on the issue of taxes. Even as the Senate wraps up the battle we've seen over the John Ashcroft nomination, the next major battle we'll see here on Capitol Hill will be over President Bush's tax cut proposal, $1.6 billion worth.

Speaker Hastert said in the interview that he would fight for that tax cut proposal and pointed to the latest economic projections as evidence of the need to move quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't want to use the "r" word, but I think that there's two things that we can do. There's fiscal policy and there's monetary policy. The Fed's done its part on lowering interest rates. I think that's the right thing to do and the Congress can do its part by lowering taxes.

We know that that will put more money in the economy. It's a stimulate. It's going to take a little while for this thing to work out, but I think that's the best action that we can move forward and take, and I think we can prevent a major downturn in this economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: The "r" word Hastert was talking about is recession. The latest economic figures saying that the economy in the fourth quarter last year grew at its slowest rate of growth in five years and many economists warning of recession.

So, Republicans up here on Capitol Hill are saying the best way to stave off a recession is to cut taxes and to cut them quickly. Of course, even within the Republican Party up here there are disagreements over the size of that tax cut and over exactly which taxes to cut. And the Democrats are geared up for a major ballot on this. There have already been two press conferences up here on Capitol Hill. One from the Democratic leader Tom Daschle today, saying that the tax cut that the president's talking about is simply too big and would send the economy back into -- send the budget surpluses back into budget deficits if we go ahead with something that big.

So, that's the next big battle up here on Capitol Hill. Speaker Hastert in this wide-ranging interview also talking about such things as Dick Cheney's new office over on the House side of the Capitol and his relations with the minority leader over in the House, Dick Gephardt -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Jonathan Karl for us on Capitol Hill today.

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