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Special Event

The First 100 Days: Bush Discusses Tax Cut's Impact on Small Business

Aired February 6, 2001 - 1:37 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: In Washington today -- actually, in McLean, Virginia, President Bush continuing his campaign for his big tax cut plan: He's at the Treetop Toy and Books store today to talk about the impact it might have on small businesses.

Let's listen to the president.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the tax relief package will help the consumers, the customers of the small business owner. We have an issue in America, right now, called energy. And the energy prices are beginning to affect the purchasing patterns of the people who come to the shops, such as this one. Many Americans have got a consumer debt load that is significant. And it's important for us to provide meaningful tax relief for all taxpayers so that they can better manage their own personal accounts.

There is a lot of talk about paying down debt. And my budget, that I'll submit to the Congress, does pay down the national debt. But by cutting taxes on everybody who pays taxes, by recognizing the family of four earning $50,000 a year will receive a $2,000 tax cut, it helps people get out from underneath their own personal debt load. And that's important. It's important for the families. It's important for the small-business owners.

And finally, part of our tax plan eliminates the death tax. Small-business owners work hard to have a financial platform from which they can not only live, but also a financial platform that they can pass onto their heirs. And the death tax is unfair. The death tax is a tax that unfairly penalizes people who have worked hard to build up their own businesses.

So this tax relief package is not only good for taxpayers, it's also good to stimulate and to help the entrepreneurial spirit in America. And the spirit's seen right here with these good folks who have taken risk, are creating jobs, but, most importantly, realize their dreams of owning their own business.

So it's such an honor to be here. I appreciate your inviting us. Thank you all for your hospitality. I'll be glad to answer a few questions. QUESTION: Mr. President, can you explain your position on the patients' bill of rights as proposed today in the Senate? Are you for it as it was outlined by Senators Kennedy and McCain and others?

BUSH: Well, I haven't seen all of the details. But, first, I am pleased it that Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain have come together to offer a plan.

Inherent in their plan, as I understand, is some tort reform. That is a really important ingredient, in order to move patients' bill of rights as far as I am concerned. We can't have a patients' bill of rights that encourages and invites all kinds of lawsuits because the ultimate effect will be to run up the cost of business, particularly for small businesses. And so, as I understand, there's some tort reform language in there.

I am a little concerned about the size of the cap on punitive damages. I want to make sure that if there is tort reform, it's a tight tort reform package, without a lot of loopholes that will allow trial lawyers to skirt the intent of the law.

But as far as I'm concerned, I am really pleased with the fact that they're moving legislation in the Senate. It's a good sign that Republicans and Democrats are getting together.

QUESTION: The administration's meeting last night with Congressman Norwood, was that in any way an effort to stall this effort on a patients' bill of rights for now? Do you feel like anybody's trying to steal your thunder as you are trying to talk about tax cuts?

BUSH: No, I don't think so. I think what -- I know the reason why our folks met with Charlie Norwood, like we're meeting with other people, is to lay out our principles; is to talk about, you know, an administrative initiative. And our initiative is going to encompass many of the principles that are inherent in John McCain's and Senator Kennedy's bill. All of these bills, you know, they're going to get worked out over time.

I just want the people in the House and the Senate to know that I am coming with a plan. And, as you know, you heard me in the campaign several times talk about the fact that I felt that our legislation in Texas -- our patients' bill of rights in Texas was a pretty strong piece of legislation.

And one of the things I'm concerned about is to make sure that the federal government law doesn't override what we did in our state. There's a lot of details to be worked out, but I am really pleased with the progress and I'm very hopeful that we can get a patients' bill of rights on my desk pretty soon. And the fact that, again, John McCain and Senator Kennedy and others have come together is a good sign.

QUESTION: Are you worried about the possibility of strikes at four major airlines, sir? And what can you do about it? BUSH: I am worried about strikes at airlines. I think that could have a harmful effect on our economy. And I would urge that the parties settle their disputes. And the president has got some opportunities, if they're unable to do so, some opportunities available, and I'll explore all options. But I'm concerned about it, and so should America.

QUESTION: Mr. President, it's now clear that the continent of African, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, is very important to you. Colin Powell mentioned that over the weekend. But what's unclear are the priorities in sub-Saharan Africa. We understand that there's a problem with AIDS, and there are mineral-rich countries. What are your priorities?

BUSH: Well, the priority's got to be the same priority we have for our hemisphere, for example, or for around the world: freedom, democracy, opportunity through open markets. And so the first place to start on the economic front is to make sure we have free and fair trade with the African continent. There ought to be significant trade back and forth, and we ought to explore opportunities to do so.

If there are barriers, and, you know, some are worried about the textile industry barriers for example, we need to examine them all. And I'll instruct Robert Zoellick to do just that.

In terms of having a peaceful continent, it is very important for us to work with countries like Nigeria, to enable Nigeria to have an effective peacekeeping force to keep warring parties apart on that continent.

It's also important for us not to ignore Africa, so that we can anticipate problems before they occur. Oftentimes on that important continent things get out of hand and they could have been prevented in the first place. Which means to have the secretary of state and the national security advisor pay attention to Africa, which we will do. QUESTION: Do you have any intention of going back -- or going to Africa?

Well, one country at a time.

(LAUGHTER)

Going to Mexico first. I've got a lot of work to do at home. David Gregory brought up a very important issue.

It reminds me about how -- it should remind you about how involved I'm going to be on pieces of legislation, whether it be a patients' bill of rights or tax relief or education reform.

I've got a lot of work to do here to work with the Congress, to make sure that the principles that I think are important are inherent in these different pieces of legislation.

I'll be making some trips, but I'm not exactly sure when I'd be going to Africa, for example.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what is it you think you're going to need to do to get enough Democratic support for tax cut proposal?

BUSH: Say that again, now?

QUESTION: What are you going to have to do to ensure that you get enough Democratic support for you tax cut plan?

BUSH: Well, I appreciate that. The thing I'm going to need to do is to remind Democrats, one, our budget works; that you can set aside payroll taxes for Social Security, set clear priorities, pay down debt and there's room for the $1.6 billion tax cut. It started off at $1.3 billion, and evidently it's grown to $1.6 billion.

Secondly, to remind people in Congress that this tax relief package is fair and positively affects the lives of people who are standing up here by me. It is a positive effect on our economy.

Thirdly, remind them we better act. The economy is slowing down, and we need to act and act as quickly as we possibly can, including working with Congress to make sure the tax cuts -- as much of the tax cuts as possible can take immediate effect to help people.

QUESTION: Are you in favor of doing something retroactively? Or would you simply accelerate the benefits in the first year of the plan?

BUSH: Well, we'll work with Congress on that. The goal is to get money in the pockets of the working people as quickly as we can.

STAFF: Thank you. Thank you all.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CHEN: All right, President Bush out pushing his tax cut plan today at a toy store in McClean, Virginia. That's northern Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C., not a long trip for the president, but one in which he took an opportunity to use the facilities and the background there to promote the idea that a tax cut plan could really help small businesses, and that his tax cut plan would also help consumers who might have run up credit card debt as well.

He said his emphasis was on putting more money on the pockets of those of us who are consumers, though many of the reporters there seemed to be more interested in talking with him about some other issues, among them the patients' bill of rights plan that Sen. McCain and Sen. Kennedy were talking about earlier today. Said he hasn't seen the details yet, but he was pleased to see these two rather disparate figures in both of their parties working together on that.

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