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Trent Lott Speaks With Media Concerning Budget Battle

Aired September 10, 2001 - 11:36   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's listen in now to Republican Minority Leader Trent Lott. He's got some words this morning about the budget and about the economy.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R), MINORITY LEADER: ... have the funds to reduce, or will have those funds to reduce the debt even further. So we've got considerable amount of work to do.

I'm concerned about the Armed Services Committee's defense authorization bill last week. They did make a dramatic cut in the missile defense program, but interestingly enough, they took $800 million of the $1.3 billion cut and moved around it and put it back into other programs, I believe primarily energy-related defense programs. And they're other issues in this bill that are going to be tough as we try to take up the defense authorization in the Senate next week, but that is, again, something we clearly need to move forward with. And I'm glad that we are at least going to have a chance to take up these issues.

I'll stop and be glad to respond to your questions.

QUESTION: On Friday, Senator, you were at the White House with Speaker Hastert and the vice president. He came out and said, "Republicans are concerned. We're going to do something about the economy that's sluggish;" but he didn't say what.

Have you come to any agreement over the weekend about whether the consensus Republican package will be? You suggested you may move along with capital gains, but although he hasn't technically signed on to that yet, what will be the Republican response to the economic situation?

LOTT: Well, first of all, we think that an energy package and trade promotion authority would be very positive if not that much in the immediate next two or three, certainly over the next few months, that would have a real effect. We have to have some spending restraint by the Congress and we have to look at some other additional growth potential.

There is, as I mentioned, capital gains tax rate cut is one that I've always been attracted to, it has historically always caused a spurt in the economy. It has also been suggested that if -- because the economy slowed down and the surplus has not as great as we though it would be -- if it does go into the Social Security, or gets close to the Social Security surplus, you could have, you know, some spending reductions across the board. There has been no agreement to do that, but that is one option.

And by the way, you're talking about a very small, probably a percent of 1 percent of the overall federal budget. But we need to continue to give the tax -- the interest rate cuts a change to work, the tax rebates to go out, and see what is needed over the next three weeks or so.

QUESTION: If I could follow up, there is no agreement yet between the Republican...

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT: No, no. That meeting...

QUESTION: ... White House...

LOTT: That meeting really was just to sort of, you know, go over what happened that week, talk about where the economy is, and begin planning and thinking about what we need to do.

The good news is, this is not an election year.

(LAUGHTER)

LOTT: Well, from the standpoint that we ought to be able to come together between the two bodies in Congress, between the two parties, between the Congress and the administration, and look for ways to take some actions if they are necessary and then work to agree on what they are. But the main thing is to be aware that you may need to do that and have some options that you consider. Clearly, we do have some options that are available.

QUESTION: Senator, I believe it was in this room that you first unveiled the lockbox. I remember John Kasich put his dollar in there. I wondering, what ever happened to that box?

LOTT: He took the key with him. I don't know...

(LAUGHTER)

LOTT: ... and left.

QUESTION: But seriously, how big of a deal would it be if we dip into the Social Security surplus this year?

LOTT: Oh, I think you could probably get debates all around by economists and even budget people in the Congress, but it should not be dipped into. It's not necessary. And we should find ways to avoid that. It can be done by some technical actions. It could be done by across-the-board restraint. It could be done by some, you know, injection quickly in the economy of a tax cut. But I think we should not do that. QUESTION: But in your words, I mean, how big a deal would it be if that were to happen? I mean, is there something that, you know, must be stopped at all cost? I mean, how...

LOTT: You know, I think that, you know, I wouldn't want to exaggerate or blow up what the impact would be. The main thing is to do what is necessary for growth in the economy and to avoid that.

QUESTION: Senator, you know, about one-third of Mississippi households, according to some studies, will not get tax rebates, because their incomes are simply too low to qualify.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Step out of this briefing here with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, he was speaking with the press this morning, giving us some insight into what he's been talking to the president about in terms of dealing with the budget and the economy, the problems that we're having right now in Washington.

He says, that pretty much everything is still on the table. Everything being spending restraint, talks of the capital gains tax rate cut in the future, as well as talks of across-the-board cuts across the board in the budget. He says all of that stuff is on the table. And as far as dipping into social security, he says it's not, and shouldn't be necessary, and should be avoided. It's something that he does not think should happen.

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