Press Gaggle by Scott Mcclellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Jackson, Mississippi
8:53 A.M. CDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's start by going through the President's day. The President had his usual intelligence briefing on board the plane this morning.
Upon arrival in Jackson, the President will have a USA Freedom Corps service recognition. Her name is Star Wallin, W-a-l-l-i-n, she is an 18 year old who, in 1999, founded Project CARE, Compassion and Action Creates a Ripple Effect of Positive Change -- is what that acronym stands for. And Project CARE empowers young people, involves them in solving community problems. Over the past three years, Project Care has matched 300 elementary school students with high school mentors, collected and delivered food, clothing and furniture for 23 impoverished families, helped to refurbish the grounds of the local public schools and helped to nurture and rehabilitate 70 abused and neglected animals.
Then the President will begin today's events in Jackson, Mississippi by participating in a roundtable on the state of the economy, where he will focus on the growing medical liability crisis facing the state of Mississippi. And you'll recall, he outlined some medical liability reform proposals back in North Carolina a couple weeks ago. And he will also talk about protecting retirement accounts and pensions.
Participants in the roundtable -- and we'll try to get you a list later -- will include community leaders, small business representatives, doctors, patients; a former employee of WorldCom will be participating in the roundtable.
Q: Say again?
MR. McCLELLAN: A former employee of WorldCom will be participating --
Q: Somebody who was laid off?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right, yes.
Q: Former or current?
MR. McCLELLAN: Former, yes.
Q: You said they were laid off --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's correct. And to go back on medical liability, the situation in Mississippi, there has been an explosion of medical malpractice litigation and that has caused many communities in Mississippi to lose needed medical care, physicians who -- and the President, if you recall, talked about some of this in North Carolina, it was a problem there as well -- physicians who specialize in family medicine and obstetrics and gynecology. And some rural areas in the state have stopped delivering babies because of skyrocketing insurance costs.
Most of the cities with populations under 20,000 in Mississippi no longer have doctors to deliver babies. And there was testimony to the House Energy Commerce Subcommittee on Health last month that indicated medical liability insurance rates for Mississippi doctors who deliver babies have risen from 20 to 400 percent the past year. And many doctors are not able to get coverage because 17 insurance companies in the state have stopped offering medical malpractice insurance due to this crisis there.
As far as protecting workers pensions and their retirement savings, you'll recall on January 10th, the President created a task force on retirement income security. And that task force went on to recommend several changes to laws governing 401(k) retirement accounts. And the President will talk about it in his remarks as well, the importance of the Senate leadership acting on several of these proposals that the House has acted on, that the Senate has not yet acted on -- including ensuring that workers can sell company stock and diversify into other investment options after they have participated in their 401(k) for three years; expanding worker access to investment advice; requiring quarterly notification to workers on the status of their 401(k) accounts; and clarifying that an employer has a fiduciary duty when imposing a black-out and the violation of those duties leaves the employer liable for investment losses.
So in addition to focusing on those two priorities, the President will talk broadly about his three big priorities as well -- his Mississippi Welcome and --
Q: What are his three big priorities?
MR. McCLELLAN: Winning the war on terrorism, protecting the homeland and strengthening our economy. But the focus today will be on medical malpractice liability reform and protecting workers' pensions.
Q: How will WorldCom figure into his remarks today, if at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, as I mentioned, as I noted, that you'll have a former employee from WorldCom participating in the roundtable. And, two, I do expect the President to spend a good portion of the remarks focusing on strengthening our economy and economic security for people all across America. And, specifically, you know, we've acted on a number of proposals but there are additional proposals that the Congress needs to act on.
Q: In terms of corporate responsibility?
MR. McCLELLAN: Particularly -- well, protecting workers' pensions, yes. He'll go back through how -- I expect he'll go back through about talking about how when he took office, that our economy was in a recession. And then it was hit by terrorists and corporate scandals. And point out how last week he signed corporate governance reforms, and touch on what it has meant to Mississippi as well, some of these corporate scandals, you know, those shady practices can cause people to lose their jobs or a good portion of their retirement funds -- and that people who devote their lives to building the company deserve better, and that there is more we can do to protect their pensions and retirement security -- retirement savings.
Q: Cheney has raised money for Pickering, Bush is flying in now --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I didn't -- the fundraising event for Pickering is expected to raise about $500,000 for his race and about $500,000 for the state party.
Q: What are the stakes in this race? Cheney has been in, Bush flies in now. It's incumbent versus incumbent. The President, needless to say, is very keenly interested in this race.
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. The President strongly supports Congressman Pickering's reelection. And he's going to do what he can to help him win reelection. The Congressman is traveling with us today.
Q: Will the father be there? Father Pickering?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have a list of attendees, but I'll try to find that when we land.
Q: Does the President view this as one of the key races around the country this year?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are several important races, and this is an important race. And the President is going to do everything he can to help out -- strongly committed to seeing Congressman Pickering reelected.
Q: Do you expect any other action today? We got a late announcement yesterday of recess appointments. Anything on along those lines, executive action?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's still early in the day. No, I don't necessarily expect anything like that, but I'll keep you posted, obviously, if there's anything. If there's anything to update you on, I'll be around.
Q: Foreign leader phone calls expected?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have anything right now.
Q: Do you expect him to be down for the next couple days?
MR. McCLELLAN: I do not expect any public events for the remainder of the week.
Q: Golf, or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if there's anything like that, we'll keep you posted, but I do not -- at this point, I don't expect that.
Q: What's your staffing plans at the filing center?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've got -- staff assistants will be around. I mean, I'll try to be there as needed. We'll keep an eye on things. But I'll pop in there.
Q: Each day?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, each day.
Q: Including weekends?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll see what the weekend looks like, see what your needs are. But I'm going to be around. I'm here to take care of you guys.
Q: We could move the file to Austin, perhaps. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: That's off the record. Thank you.
Q: Any bill signings today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't expect any.
END 9:01 A.M. CDT
Scott McClellan, Press Gaggle by Scott Mcclellan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/271893