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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on the Federal Budget Negotiations

October 11, 1990

The President. This is what we call a modified -- --

Q. Photo opportunity.

The President. -- -- photo opportunity. Maybe take a couple of questions.

Q. No kidding. Yea!

The President. Which I haven't done since -- in 48 hours. What do you mean, yea?

No, but let me just -- I know there's a lot of interest in you all being here, and I'm very pleased to be meeting with the members of the Ways and Means Committee Republicans on the House side.

There have been a lot of different plans floating around. I'm strongly in favor of what's known as the Andrews summit or the Rose Garden summit agreement, and I'm very grateful to those here that did support us on that, particularly the leadership of the Republican side, Bob Michel and Bob Dole. It was a good plan. It got done what I wanted done, which was a $500 billion reduction over 5 years -- real enforcement. Didn't get everything I wanted. Had to compromise.

But today Marlin put out a statement that demonstrated that we have tried other approaches. One of them included a certain flexibility on the question of capital gains. But I'm not very flexible on that. We tried at 31 percent and -- 15 percent on capital gains and income rates at 31. I will not go beyond that. But some in the House feel that there's room to maneuver there. My view is, it's going to be very difficult because our leadership tried very hard to get that, and the Democrats would not yield on that.

But nevertheless, 2 days ago I said there was certain flexibility, and that's what it is. My view is that it's not going to happen, and we're going to try to move forward in another approach. I notice with interest the bill -- that the leadership role in Ways and Means coming out with a program -- I don't know. I want to hear from you -- this is consultation -- as to how you read that. But it does seem to preserve some of the aspects of the bipartisan agreement, and thus, it will give us something to build around.

But I want to hear from you all when we get into the privacy of our talk. But it's coming forward, and we will get a deal, I'm convinced. Nobody is going to get it exactly the way they want.

Q. Well, are you going to tell the committee to go ahead and try to negotiate up to the 31 -- --

The President. I think a lot of the people on the committee felt that they weren't -- I was told this morning -- I don't know about this group here -- that maybe didn't have enough input. So, now let some try. I've told what I want. I've billed out the broad definition of what we need, and I've said that there's certain flexibility. But I'm not going to vary from the terms that I've just spelled out. If they can get that done, fine. I think it's a waste of time because I just don't think it can get through both Houses of Congress.

Q. Why not? Why not?

The President. Because it's just not going to get through both Houses of Congress.

Q. Well, why not just drop it then? Take it off the table instead of having -- --

The President. Because I'm not going to deny House Members an opportunity to do something that they think can be done. That's not my role.

Q. But what about those who are concerned that it will take up Members' time when they don't have a great deal before the next deadline is coming up?

The President. No. We've got to -- everybody's looking at the time certain, which is the 19th. And that's where the President does have some say, because I'm going to insist that we have a package that fits this description. So, the meter is running.

But look, I can't dictate to the Congress -- Republicans or Democrats -- what to take up and when to take it up. I can say what we're for. And I stood out here in the Rose Garden and said what I'm for. I'm still for it. Now, if there's some modifications, I want to hear from ranking Member Bill Archer and from Bob Michel as to where they see us going. But the broad parameters must be met.

Q. Mr. President, you said repeatedly you like the original budget agreement. But that agreement raised taxes less on the wealthiest Americans than on middle-class Americans. Why aren't you -- --

The President. I don't buy the argument of the liberal Democrats. I fought that battle in the campaign. I don't buy the argument that our proposals favor the wealthy.

Q. These are figures from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. [Laughter] You're saying, sir -- you're saying, sir, that -- --

The President. -- -- answer. I hope it's played in full. [Laughter] I will say one thing: A lot of these figures talk about tax rates, but they don't talk about the benefits that go into the whole equation. So, that's another very important part of it that's left out when people accuse us -- me and all our colleagues around this table -- of favoring the rich against the poor. It isn't true. In every campaign any of us has been in, that battle was taken to the American people, and they came down at least on the side of all of us that are sitting here around the table, or we wouldn't have been elected. That's the age-old Democrat cry of favoring the rich. The American people want to favor growth, and they want to favor jobs, and they don't believe all this handout mentality. So, we have a big difference, frankly.

Q. Do you think you've been damaged politically by this and called wishy-washy and flip-flopping -- --

The President. No, I don't think so. These things come and go. The best thing -- we get a good deal. If we get a good deal, people forget the name calling, and they'll forget the little rancor and the tension at the time.

But the other thing -- I'm elected to try to get something done here. Nobody thinks you can be popular by standing up and having to take, in a compromise, ingredients that you wouldn't necessarily want. So, I'll do what I think is best and take the slings and the arrows that go with it. I haven't felt too much pressure.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House, prior to a meeting with Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee. In his remarks, he referred to Robert H. Michel, House Republican leader; Robert Dole, Senate Republican leader; Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to the President; and Bill Archer, senior Republican member of the committee.

George Bush, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on the Federal Budget Negotiations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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