Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters on Administration Priorities During the Final Session of the 97th Congress

November 30, 1982

The President. We've just finished a very warm and constructive meeting on the final session, and I want to report to you on the results.

As you all know, I originally urged the 97th Congress to return for this session, because much work remained to be done on the 1983 budget. Senator Baker and Congressman Michel and the other GOP leaders who were here this morning have pledged that they will do everything they can to complete action on the 10 appropriation bills that are outstanding. Everyone recognizes that in working on these bills, we must hold the line on spending. And while the appropriations bills are among the highest priorities of this final session, we also agreed this morning that we must move forward on other fronts as well.

I've asked the leaders to work with me in coming days to pass two vital pieces of legislation that will help bring a fresh boost to our economy: a highway construction bill that will help restore the Nation's most important transportation arteries and stimulate several hundred thousand new jobs in the hard-hit construction and related industries, and the enterprise zone legislation that would provide a new lifeline to people who live in our inner cities.

We had a good discussion of tax policies in the meeting. While there continues to be interest in the possibility of accelerating the economic stimulus provided by our tax program, we agreed that our most important objective for this final session is to protect the cuts that are already in place, the third year of the tax cut that begins this July '83, and the indexing that follows in '84 [1985 - White House correction].

Our tax program, along with the highway program, the enterprise zone initiative, and our efforts to hold down spending, are all essential to restoring a healthy America.

Looking beyond the economy, there are several other pieces of unfinished business which must also be addressed in this final session of the 97th Congress. The priorities I outlined to the leaders this morning included the following: the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which is so important to our relations with our neighbors to the south and which I'll be discussing with them in the next few days; and of great importance, I'm asking that the Congress provide funding so that our MX program can begin on schedule. Then there is the Clean Air Act, nuclear waste disposal, a revision of our bankruptcy laws, regulatory reform and immigration reform, Radio Marti, and the anticrime bill already passed by the Senate.

In the past several days I and others of the administration have had the opportunity to consult widely with Members of the Congress on both sides of the aisle. And from these conversations and from our meeting this morning, I'm convinced that there is a desire on everyone's part to get the job done in a spirit of cooperation. The economy needs it, our people deserve it, and I think all of us are prepared to answer that call.

Q. Mr. President, does this mean that you are not going to push at all for the advancement of the tax cut? I mean, you didn't say it in so many words, but is that what you're saying, really?

The President. No, we discussed that very thoroughly. And while, as I say, there is still some interest in this, we're not going to make a push for that. We think the most important thing is to resist efforts that probably will be made to go the other way.

Q. Mr. President, you described it, however, as a healing way of stimulating the economy. That was about 2 weeks ago. What changed your mind?

The President. Well, there are a number of facets to it. Among those could be what opening that whole subject up might do. But also there is a contrary one that we were aware of at the time, and that is, with the deficits, while I believe that's a stimulant to the economy, it's a stimulant that actually occurs down the line a little ways. And the first result in this time of high deficit would be an addition to the deficit.

Q. Did you get the word, Mr. President, from Mr. Michel and Mr. Baker that it probably could not pass?

The President. Well, I'll tell you what; I think maybe I'm going to let these gentlemen answer questions like that, because the whole thing was that after two or three of these for you, and because I'm going to be taking off from the South Lawn very quickly on this trip. And I've got some other meetings now to go to. I'm going to abandon ship here and turn it over to them.

But, no, we discussed the difficulty of getting this passed, because, as I say, there are elements up there who want to go the other way, which I think would be directly opposed to what is needed today if we're to restore the economy, would be to go the other way and take away that incentive.

Q. Are you talking about the Democrats' proposal for $5 billion in additional jobs?

The President. That would be one that I was not talking -- I was talking about the tax program itself. But this program -- I think by the time that got into place, it would ignore all the things that are happening to the economy and it would be self-defeating to have such a program as they're talking, up on the Hill.

Let me just say this, this one thing. This morning as you know, at 10 o'clock the economic indicators, the news on them was released again. And not only are they up again for October, but they revised September and it was up more than double what the figure had been given a month ago for the economic indicators in September.

But I do -- and now, no fooling around -- I do have to go, and it isn't just to get away from your questions here.

Q. Mr. President, do you think you can salvage the third year? Is there any danger -- --

The President. What?

Q. Do you think the third year can be preserved? Is there a danger that it might be postponed or perhaps killed on the Hill?

The President. I think it can be saved. I'm sure of it.

Note: The President spoke at 10:36 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Following his remarks, Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker, Jr., and House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel answered reporters' questions.