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Special Event

White House Spokesman Fleischer Holds Daily Briefing

Aired March 2, 2001 - 12:41 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN now live at the White House, for the daily briefing.

(TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES)

CNN live now at the White House, for the daily White House briefing -- here's the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... personnel: President Bush today announced his intention to nominate two individuals to serve in his administration. We'll have the paper out on this shortly. The president intends to nominate Chris Spear to be assistant secretary of labor for policy. And he intends to nominate John B. Taylor to be undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs.

And with that, I'm all yours.

QUESTION: On the alternative minimum tax, what is the president proposing to do about a problem that a lot of people in Congress are looking at and say will be exacerbated considerably by the president's tax proposal, that more people will fall under the alternative minimum tax and it's expensive to fix?

FLEISCHER: The president is concerned about the alternative minimum tax, and that is why his proposal will include $60 billion worth of relief from the alternative minimum tax. That way, people who receive that benefit of the new child credit going for $500 to $1,000 will not lose it, particularly for middle-income Americans.

The alternative minimum tax is a problem that will confront policy-makers increasingly in later years, and that is why the president believes very strongly that after this tax package is taken care of, he will want to work with the Congress in taking a look at subsequent tax packages to address AMT.

QUESTION: So what the White House is telling the American people is $1.6 trillion isn't enough to fix the tax cut?

FLEISCHER: Well, I do find it notable that many people on the Hill who are criticizing the president's plan for being too big, very quickly say, "But then we need to add $200 billion to it to address the alternative minimum tax problem."

QUESTION: But we do, right?

FLEISCHER: And it's a problem that's going to grow over time. Right now the alternative minimum tax problem is predominately a problem for more upper-income taxpayers than middle-income taxpayers. And that's why the president's proposal addresses it for those middle- income taxpayers by taking into account the effect of the AMT on child credit, and that's why he has $60 billion worth of relief in there.

The basic problem with the AMT is it wasn't indexed when it was increased in 1993, in the Tax Act of 1993. That's the principle cause of the growing AMT problem.

The biggest problem the AMT will create is still somewhat down the road, in terms of the number of years. Each year an increasing number of Americans will fall into the AMT problem. And that's why the president addresses it now, with $60 billion this year, and he is willing to work with the Congress subsequent to that.

QUESTION: One more question. Would it be fair, then, for Americans when they think about tax policy in the Bush administration, to think in terms of more than $1.6 trillion, because eventually you guys are going to tackle this?

FLEISCHER: Well, certainly for this year the correct figure is $1.6 trillion. That's what the president believes in, that's what the president will fight for. But he is elected to a four-year term, and the president is going to be interested in additional tax relief, but that's down the road.

QUESTION: I'd just like to follow-up on that, when you said $1.6 trillion for this year. If they get this tax package done by the August recess, say, that you would not support further tax cuts in the fall?

FLEISCHER: That's for this calendar year, the president's tax plan is for this calendar year: $1.6 trillion plan over 10-years, to reduce marginal income-tax rates, double the child credit from $500 to $1,000, repeal the estate tax, reduce the marriage penalty, provide $60 billion worth of alternative minimum tax relief. Those are the core components of the president's plan, and that is all in this year's tax package.

QUESTION: OK, this year's tax package, but you mentioned yourself subsequent tax packages that might address the AMT. Could that happen this year?

FLEISCHER: No, we'll stick with one major tax bill at a time, here.

QUESTION: On defense spending, I know we visited this issue several times in the past five weeks, but yesterday at his briefing, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld tossed the hot potato back...

WATERS: Ari Fleischer, at the White House. He'll talk of tax reduction, the tax plan: $1.6 trillion is the number that the Bush administration is sticking with, possibly further relief on down the line. But the size of the number still being debated in the Congress, of course, still being pushed at the White House.

And that's our news from the White House briefing room for today -- Ari Fleischer.

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