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President Bush Touts Tax Cut Plan at Treasury Department

Aired March 7, 2001 - 2:09 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: More now on the Bush plan from the man himself.

President George W. Bush at the Treasury Department:

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our job is make sure that this great country fulfills its promise for everybody. And I know a lot of times people don't give you your proper due, your proper thanks for working on behalf of the American people. So from the 43rd president, thank you for what you do for America. I appreciate your hard work.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: I hope you're as excited about your job as I am...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: ... about mine.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: It's a huge honor to be your president, it really is, and it's a huge honor to be the president of the people. And as you know, I'm taking to the road on occasion. Tomorrow I'm going to Fargo, North Dakota, and South Dakota, Louisiana. Decided to drop in on my own home state of Texas for the weekend.

But it is so refreshing to be able to take a message to the people that in Washington we listen to you, that we understand we're the servants of the people. And so I look forward to going to work every morning here, but I also look forward to taking the message that I'm -- you know, the particular message that I'm dealing at the moment to the people.

Right now we're talking about tax relief and tax reform. I've got a good partner in this effort in your secretary. By the way, you'll find him to be a pretty darn unusual man. He is successful. He thinks outside the box in a positive way. When given a task, he's performance-oriented. He's going to expect the same of you all, but he'll be eminently fair. He will listen. He will work to build a team. That's the kind of man he is. But first things first: I got to see this firsthand when I swore him in. He's got his priorities straight. He loves his family. His wife and children and grandchildren are his priority, and that's important.

We've spent a lot of time talking about taxes right now. And, by the way, I feel like we're going to have a pretty good day in the House of Representatives tomorrow. The message is slowly but surely getting out that we've got enough money coming into the Treasury to meet important obligations, but we've also got enough money to remember who paid the bills in the first place, and those are the working folks, the people who paid the taxes.

And I think we're going to have a good day tomorrow, and there will be other issues we'll be talking about. Of course, the Treasury Department and many of you work on issues relating to trade and collection, law enforcement. There's a lot of issues that take place here. But there's no bigger issue than to remember priorities in life. There's no bigger issue.

The way I like to put it is this: There's no bigger issue for the president to remind the moms and dads of America, if you happen to have a child -- be fortunate enough to have a child -- your biggest priority is going to be to love your children. There's no bigger responsibility.

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Some might say: Well, that message doesn't seem to fit in the Treasury Department.

(LAUGHTER)

WATERS: We lost our satellite feed. Are we going to move along, then?

No. He's back.

BUSH: ... represent the people, that our jobs is to work on the collective will of the country, to uplift this country.

WATERS: Now he's gone again -- George W. Bush doing his tax and budget proposals and preaching to the choir over at the Treasury Department. But the president said, on this score, he is going to have a good day in the House tomorrow.

We have Kate Snow back at the Capitol here.

What does the president have in mind at the Capitol tomorrow, Kate?

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it's what we talked about a few moments before the president started speaking, which is that the tax bill, the first part of President Bush's tax cut that you have heard him talk so much about -- he campaigned on it, he's been pushing it up on Capitol Hill -- it is going to come up for a vote tomorrow in the House of Representatives. There's been a lot of talk about: How many votes will the Republicans have? Will Mr. Bush have all of the Republicans on board? Mr. Bush saying there: We are going to have good day in the House tomorrow.

So he clearly is confident that they are going to have all of the Republicans in line when they take that vote here tomorrow.

I wanted to point out one thing, Lou. Just before we went to the president, we were talking about a couple of families. And I just wanted to point out that we did review another family's taxes. And they, by the way, did better under the Democratic alternative. So the math is very different, depending on which plan you look at -- and unclear, at this point, whether the Democrats will be able to offer an alternative plan tomorrow on the House floor.

That's something that they're deciding tonight: how the rules are going to work up here on Capitol Hill tomorrow for this grand debate on taxes -- Lou.

WATERS: And that begs the question, Kate, about the Democratic plan and the success of the Bush plan in the Senate. It seemed all along that the success in the House would be a fait accompli. But what about the Senate? What happens next?

SNOW: That is exactly -- that's the biggest question, I guess you could say: that the Senate is split 50-50, as we all know. It is going to be a much tighter vote there probably -- presumably. And President Bush seems to know that.

You heard him mention, Lou, that he is going on a trip. And he's going to North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana, to name a few of the states. Well, guess what? There happen to be senators from those states who he's trying to woo, who he's trying get on board, Democrats who he thinks perhaps will support him in the end and are in favor of tax cuts -- so the White House certainly making an aggressive effort to woo some of those key senators in the hopes that they can pass this on through the Senate as well.

WATERS: All right, Kate Snow up on Capitol Hill.

Let's check that with Kelly Wallace over at the White House.

What is the strategy here with these visits, as the president, as he said, taking it to the people?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Lou: the president saying he wants to take the message to the people.

The strategy is really twofold. One is to solidify support with Republican lawmakers. And the second part of the strategy to try to put some public pressure on moderate-to-conservative Democrats in the Senate, especially -- as Kate mentioned, Mr. Bush knows, with a 50-50 split and with some moderate Republicans concerned that the president's plan is too large, the president does need Democratic support to get his agenda through the Congress. And so we saw that quite clearly last week: the president going to places like Nebraska; the president not subtle at all about what he is doing. When he was in Nebraska, he was joined with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, as well as Democratic Senator Ben Nelson. You had a crowd of people applauding the president's proposal, a tax cut -- the president looking over at the senator, saying: I hope I can count on you both when I'm in a pinch -- so the president hoping to build up support when he travels around the country for his plan, hoping that public pressure sways the minds of some Democrats to vote for the president's ideas.

WATERS: So when the president goes into these areas -- and these are the areas in which he won a large share of the presidential vote -- and he appeals directly to the people, these politicians are relatively pinned, aren't they?

WALLACE: They are a bit pinned. I mean, you heard the president, when he goes out to these places, he asks people to call their members of Congress, to e-mail them, to send letters trying to put the pressure on these lawmakers to go ahead and vote for his plan.

Another thing we are seeing start to develop here at the White House, I believe, Lou, which is that the White House saying that: Look, we understand if the Democrats are not going to support the president's tax cut plan -- the White House saying that maybe Democrats are not supportive of tax relief. So you're going to have this administration trying to put forward the message that president is the one trying to give the American people back a share of their money in the form of tax cuts.

And then some Democrats will have the tough decision of, if they don't vote for this plan, will their constituents say, "Hey, you didn't vote for a tax cut"? They might not like that at all.

WATERS: It's going to be very interesting. The battle has been joined, as we knew it would -- Kelly Wallace at the White house.

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