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Special Event

House Republicans Hold News Conference on Bush Tax Cut Proposal

Aired March 1, 2001 - 11:18 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go live now to Capitol Hill. Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma talking about taxes and the budget.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: ... job security and economic growth. At the end of the day, we would have passed about a $1.6 trillion tax plan that we think is good for the American people, and we think the American people believe that it's good for them.

In this package, we'll be raising the per child tax credit from $500 to $1,000; we will be reducing the tax rates; we will be eliminating the unfair marriage tax, to say you shouldn't penalize two people for simply saying, "I do"; and we'll be eliminating the unfair death tax that requires the government to take about 50 percent of your business or your farm when you die.

We've heard a lot of rhetoric over the last few weeks about why this plan is bad. One is that it's too much. Well, that's a pretty hard sell on the people in the 4th District of Oklahoma, when you consider we're going to take in about $28 trillion over the next 10 years, and we're proposing to give $1.6 trillion back to the American people, that literally amounts to roughly six pennies of very dollar, you know, 5, 6 cents on a dollar is what we're proposing to give back. And people are saying that's too much.

Ninety-five cents is going to stay in Washington to pay the government's bills, pay down our debt, take care of Social Security and Medicare, national defense, education. Six pennies is going to go back to the American taxpayer, the people that created the surplus. And some will say that that's too much.

And I heard yesterday, I've heard several times, but I heard again yesterday that, you know, this is risky, and we should not go back to what Ronald Reagan did in 1981. Well, this tax relief package is much smaller than what Ronald Reagan proposed in 1981.

But I would remind us that in 1981, when Ronald Reagan passed tax relief, that revenue doubled under that tax relief plan, but the Democratic Congress with their spending habits caused spending to triple. Revenue doubled, spending tripled.

So, again, this tax relief is good for the American people. We want to control spending, do what's right by the American people who created this surplus. And the right thing to do is give them back a refund and allow them to enjoy the benefits of this surplus.

We've got the majority leader, Dick Armey, with us, the majority whip with us, Tom DeLay. And then we'll hear from Steven and Josefina Ramos.

REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Thank you, J.C.

I'll be brief. I'm Dick Armey and I'm here to cut your taxes. That's an easy enough thing for me to do, because I know without a doubt that cutting taxes is good for the American family and cutting taxes is good for the American economy.

We saw it work 20 years ago with Ronald Reagan; we saw it work 40 years ago with President Kennedy. And what worked then will work now, to get this economy back up and moving, make it possible for people to have more, better jobs with better opportunities for advancement in employment and more take-home pay to take care of their children.

And we just happen to have a very good example with us this morning of why this is important. We've got a little girl here who will tell you all how important it is to her.

Thank you.

TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: Let me just say that working men and women across this country have been patient for a very long time -- too long, I'd say. But this year, hardworking American families have a friend in the White House.

President Bush understands that American families are suffering because their government put an unfair tax burden on their American dream. He knows that taxpayers were overcharged. And he knows that surplus dollars left in Washington will be spent by Washington. The surplus needs to go back to the people who earned it.

We've always celebrated achievement in this country, and the question before us this morning is not how to design a tax code to best punish success. That's been perfected; it's called the status quo. Instead, Republicans offer an answer, and that answer is this: Trust Americans.

We'll do it by expanding the principles of economic freedom and opportunity to help every American citizen become successful through their own initiative and hard work.

We can start by giving American families the help that they need by providing tax relief and tax fairness. The president wants to make it retroactive, and ladies and gentlemen, the president is right.

Now the Ramoses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

I would like to thank the president and the first lady for inviting us to D.C. And I'd like to thank Congressman Watts for inviting us here this morning.

As representatives of the American family, we do support the president's tax plan. And as far as my family is concerned, it would help us with our own personal debt reduction. And once that's done away with, we can look to the future and our future investments, you know, for retirement and college education for this little one.

And that's about all we have to say. Thank you.

WATTS: The Ramos family has -- as Mr. Ramos said, it would be beneficial to them. It would save them a little over $2,000 per year for clothes for their daughter, for savings for their daughter, to retire credit card debt, to help with the house payment.

And some have said over the last week, "Well, we should wait."

And every time I hear the word "wait" around this place, it usually always means never. This is an idea whose time has come. It is right, again, to do what's right by these working families. And as Mr. Ramos said, he represents millions of families who are in the same position that they're in, would like to have another couple of thousand dollars every year to do what they need to do with it and not what 535 members of the United States Congress would like to do with it.

So with that, I'll shut up and take your questions. Any questions?

QUESTION: Congressman, the Democrats have their own tax plan now.

KAGAN: We're going to take that opportunity to dip out of that. That is Congressman J.C. Watts, Republican from Oklahoma. You just heard from some leading Republicans from the Congress talking about tax cuts and the Bush tax cut package. Earlier in our last hour live here on CNN we heard from congressional Democrats.

And as they have their debate there on Capitol Hill, President Bush himself is making his way around the country today in North Little Rock, Arkansas and then making his way here to Atlanta.

More coverage on that later. Meanwhile, here's Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And when we heard the Democrats introduce their package, it almost sounds the same. It's like we've got as much as they've got for you. Everyone -- we all love you.

Well, let's go to our Jeanne Meserve. We love her as well and she's going to try to straighten all this stuff out for us -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Leon, you leave me speechless.

(LAUGHTER)

MESERVE: Well, not quite, thank goodness. First a note about this Republican-controlled Congress. Congress is not renowned for moving with lightning speed, or any appreciable speed, for that matter, but different on the matter of this tax cut.

President Bush just unveiled this on Tuesday night. And today, right now, the House Ways and Means Committee is already taking a look at one aspect of the plan that would reduce tax rate and reduce the number of tax rates.

Democrat are moving, too. They're trying to get in the bidding here, putting forward their own tax cut proposals today.

Kate Hill -- Kate Snow is up on Capitol Hill.

I'm already changing your name, Kate, you're up there so much. Tell us a little bit more about what the Democrats are proposing and what the politics are surrounding what they've put down.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, right, because that's important, too, Jeanne.

Let's start with what they're proposing. The Democrats talking numbers today, laying out what their numbers are: about half as big as the president's plan, is the easiest way to put it, is what the Democrats are asking for.

What they're going to do is rather than what George W. Bush has proposed, the president has proposed changing every tax bracket. Well, the Democrats are talking about changing just the lowest tax bracket. That right now at 15 percent.

And what they would do, to put it really clearly, is they would make it so that a couples' income, up to $20,000, would be taxed now at 12 percent. And they will point out that that affects not only people who make up to $20,000, but everybody else who makes more that, even Bill Gates. His first $20,000 would then be taxed at 12 percent.

Now, certainly the wealthiest Americans may not feel that tax break very much as compared to lower- and middle-class Americans, but that's the whole point. Democrats say they would also expand the earned income tax credit. That's meant to help those low-income Americans, those who perhaps don't even have an income tax burden but do pay the payroll tax. They expand the earned income tax credit to help out those folks.

The Democrats say that the Republican plan is aimed more at helping the very wealthy. And they say that will do very little to spur the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: We don't see a rush of these high-rollers going out to buy refrigerators and washing machines. And, certainly, if we really want to do something to spur the economy, it would be those people that have obligations for rent and mortgages and food and clothing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RANGEL: Charlie Rangel, the Democratic -- ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which Jeanne mentioned, is right now taking up the very first Republican-sponsored bill that dealing with the across the board tax rate cuts. Republicans pushing that through the House committee. They think they may have it through. They think they'll have a party line vote in the committee today, and then they think it'll go to the full House.

So as you mentioned, Jeanne, lightning speed: It could be before the full House by next week -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Kate, explain to us why that House Ways and Means Committee is only looking at the tax brackets and not the other aspects of the Bush plan.

KATE: Right, right, because the Bush plan goes further than just that. The Bush plan does include also the marriage tax penalty, the estate tax. But right now they're just looking at one little piece, and that's because Chairman Bill Thomas, the Republican leader of that committee, has made a decision. Politically, it's going to be easier, Republicans think, to get the bill through if they just look at that part of it. They think a lot of Democrats sitting on the House side are going to be -- have a hard time not supporting across-the-board rate cuts. They think they can pull some Democrats on just that part of it. So that's what they're doing -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: Kate Snow, thanks.

And as Kate mentioned, things are moving fast. We will keep our eyes on it all.

Leon, back to you.

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