Remarks Announcing a Bipartisan Plan to Reduce the Federal Budget Deficit and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters
November 20, 1987
The President. I have a statement to make here. This country has been held captive by the threat of ever-increasing deficits, and it became apparent several weeks ago when our nation was stunned as the stock market took a dramatic dive. There were many reasons given for the drop, but few wanted to take responsibility.
It became clear, though, on that day that it was time for action, and immediately we took the necessary steps to deal with our Federal budget problems. For the past 20 days, my representatives have been meeting with negotiators from the Congress, hammering out a credible and reliable deficit reduction plan, a plan that's both fair and responsible, a plan that meets our short-term concerns while laying the foundation for long-term solutions. And today I'm pleased to announce that a bipartisan agreement has been reached on the budget not just for 1 year but for 2, a blueprint that sends a strong signal both at home and abroad that together we can and will get our deficit under control and keep it that way.
This agreement is probably not the best deal that could be made, but it is a good solid beginning. It provides the necessary services for our people, maintains our national security, and does so at a level that does not overburden the average American taxpayer -- in a word, fairness. And while there will be other reports to reduce the deficit, today we're sending the right message at the right time.
So, let me extend my personal thanks to the congressional leadership and to the budget negotiators for the spirit of cooperation they have shown. All of us, Republican and Democrat, Senator and Congressman, must roll up our sleeves and go to work so that we can complete this important job. And the challenge before us is to make our case to the American people and to urge them to join with us in reaching our goal: a sound and enforceable budget.
Our commitment is to continue on a path of growth and opportunity. And we have today committed ourselves to a fiscal path that will lead to continued economic growth and opportunity and provide a solid base for economic stability in the future.
Jim, would you like to say a few words?
Speaker Wright. Thank you, Mr. President. This is truly a bipartisan agreement. It is a balanced package: Everybody gives some; nobody gets everything he wants -- not the President, not the Congress, not Democrats, nor Republicans. It is a real set of deficit reductions. It isn't painless for the very reason that it is real and not cosmetic. I believe it is a demonstration that in time of stress the administrative and executive and the legislative branches of government can work together, even when they are in the hands of different political parties. And so, we anticipate its adoption in the House and in the Senate. I understand that it has the support of all the leadership, Democrat and Republican, in the House and the Senate.
Q. Mr. President, Mr. President, do you think you can make it stick?
The President. Senator Byrd is -- a few words here.
Senator Byrd. This is a demonstration that the executive branch and the legislative branch can work together, that they have demonstrated the discipline and the will and the determination to reach an agreement that is a positive one, that is a substantive one. We think that this is a good message to send to the markets and to the people, and we are pledged to give our support to it and the full implementation of it. And I want to personally thank the President and his representatives and Tom Foley and the Members on both sides of the aisle in both Houses, who have worked so long in preparing this package, which I think is a very good birthday present for me.
Q. How old are you?
Senator Byrd. This is the 31st anniversary of my 39th birthday. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President -- --
The President. There is a gentleman here first that should be heard from -- we are all indebted to him -- and that was the chairman of the negotiations, Tom Foley.
Representative Foley. Thank you, Mr. President. I think we see this agreement as a milestone in our efforts to bring about a reduction of the deficit. It represents a consensus between both parties, the Congress, and the President. And this is a good, solid plan. It does not have budgetary gimmicks or smoke in mirrors, as sometimes the words are used. It is an achievable reduction to the targets of Gramm-Rudman this year and substantially more next year.
Q. Mr. President -- --
The President. Andrea [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News], did you have a question? [Laughter]
Q. How are you going to make this stick? How are you going to sell it to the Republicans who don't like it? And what do you say to those who say it isn't enough?
The President. Well, I think we've indicated up here that this is something that must be ongoing, but that it is a good beginning. And as to selling it to our -- all of us that you see up here are going to go to work on that right now.
Q. But your own party doesn't like it. Your own party says it's too much taxes and too much of a defense hit.
The President. Well, let's wait and see what they say after we've had a chance to visit.
Q. Well, Mr. President, many on Wall Street, sir, have already discounted this because of the relative small numbers -- about 30 and 45 billion in the 2 years -- and because it presumably doesn't contain any COLA reductions. So, the Street seems to think it's not going to be enough -- won't make any difference.
The President. I have an answer to the Street about that. Should I give it?
Q. Please, please!
Q. Yes, please!
The President. Well, it isn't original with me; I wouldn't plagiarize. [Laughter] But a man sent me a letter the other day. And he just pointed out that with Wall Street looking for so many outside areas as being responsible for the volatility of the marketplace -- he said even a farmhand cleaning out the stalls in a barn knows that what he's cleaning out didn't come from outside; it was produced in the barn.
Q. Are you attacking Wall Street? [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, are you saying -- --
The President. No, I'm just saying that they've got some things to straighten out themselves, also. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President, sir, what is your reaction to the Iran-contra report, which charges that there was a disdain for the law in this White House and says you were responsible for this atmosphere?
The President. Sam, [Sam Donaldson, ABC News], this day is given over to a budget deficit. I'm not going to take any questions -- --
Q. -- -- sign the sequester?
Q. Well, Mr. President, how do you plan to go out and vigorously sell $9 billion in new taxes, when you just the other day at the Chamber of Commerce said taxes were not the way to go on this? How are you going to sell that?
The President. I would like to remind you that in the budget last January that I sent up to the Congress I had proposals in there for $9 billion in revenues. And this has been part of our proposal all the way. But they are not taxes dealing with changes in the income tax or taxes that we think would be deleterious to the economy. But these sources of revenue are -- they've been there laying on the shelf since January.
Q. Are you ever going to respond?
Q. Mr. President, people on Wall Street wonder why this deal was put together many days ago -- the basic numbers were in place many days ago -- and they're saying, why has it taken so long to produce so little?
The President. Well, because I think when you get dealing here in government -- and two branches of government and two parties involved and all -- there are people who have their own ideas and who like to make suggestions. And some are accepted, and some are denied. And we've finally come to an agreement.
Q. Well, what was holding it up, Mr. President? I mean, the numbers were set several days ago.
The President. Well, finally we came to an agreement.
Q. How do you think the market will react, sir?
Q. What about our allies, Mr. President?
Q. Could we ask the Speaker a question? Could we ask the Speaker a question?
Mr. Fitzwater. He's going to have to go here.
Q. Mr. President, are we going to now meet with our allies?
Q. Mr. Speaker, have you identified for the President all of the areas where the taxes will come from, or is that still up in the air?
Speaker Wright. Well, I don't think it's up in the air, exactly.
Q. Well, have you given an exact list of where these taxes will come from?
Speaker Wright. No, and he didn't ask for one. We have a bill that we passed in the House. The Senate has a bill which has been reported from committee. The President and Members of the Senate may have suggestions to make with respect to additional changes, modifications, amendments. Whatever emerges from the Senate, I presume, would go to conference with what has passed in the House, and -- --
Q. Do you pledge, sir, that they will not be rate increases in any sense?
Speaker Wright. I don't think it is achievable in this climate to have rate increases, and I think it would be unrealistic for me to expect to pass any rate increases. As you know, I have said early on this year that my personal preference might be to extend the rate as it is, not have rate reductions for those at the top of the economic spectrum. But that isn't going to happen this year. It isn't in the House bill. It isn't in the Senate bill. And the President -- --
Q. But you are giving that pledge, sir?
Speaker Wright. Well, I don't have to give the pledge. The President has already indicated he'd veto a bill that had it in there.
Q. Are you satisfied, Mr. President? Are you satisfied that they've been specific enough about the taxes and that you're not going to be hoodwinked?
The President. Yes. Yes. And what the Speaker says is correct. But also, in addition -- maybe he was going to get to this -- there has been an agreement on the kind of taxes it wouldn't be.
Q. What is that?
Mr. Fitzwater. Let's take a 10-minute filing break, and then we'll come back for the other briefing.
Q. Do you know -- --
Q. What kind of taxes won't it be, sir?
The President. My boss is kicking us out of here.
Q. Do you now agree, sir, that there won't be a joint session with Mr. Gorbachev, that Mr. Gorbachev will not appear before a joint session of Congress?
The President. They've never formally asked for one.
Q. But would you have liked one if the Republicans had not rebelled against it?
The President. No, and this never originated with us, at all. There was talk of it -- --
Q. Speaker Wright announced it, sir.
The President. But there was talk of it, yes, but no request ever did -- --
Q. Is there going to be a summit?
Q. Spending cuts -- --
The President. Yes, there will be a summit.
Note: The President spoke at 3:42 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Jim Wright, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Robert C. Byrd, Senate Majority Leader; and Representative Thomas S. Foley of Pennsylvania also made remarks. Marlin Fitzwater was Assistant to the President for Press Relations. Prior to his remarks, the President met with the congressional leadership in the Cabinet Room.