Remarks to Reporters on House of Representatives Approval of Federal Tax and Budget Reconciliation Legislation

August 19, 1982

The President. On behalf of the American people, I want to thank the Members of both parties in the House of Representatives for today's -- who made today's victory possible. This was a hard choice for many of them, especially in an election year. But when it came to the test, a bipartisan majority bit the bullet and voted for the revenue increases and spending cuts we so urgently needed to get deficits and interest rates down and Americans back to work.

This vote does not mark the end of the crusade to get our country's economy moving again, but it is an important milestone. Over the last 18 months, we've cut inflation in half. The interest rates are coming down. The latest economic indicators are pointing in the right direction. It hasn't been easy, and I fully appreciate what it's been like for millions of Americans who have borne the brunt of this recession and resisted the political calls for quick fixes. We must keep our faith with their patience, their courage, and their resolve.

Our duty is clear. We have to keep government spending and deficits moving downwards so that prosperity and economic growth can move up. And I pledge my cooperation with the Congress in the days ahead to work tirelessly for these vital objectives.

Let me also add a word to those who voted against this measure. Honorable men and women can honestly disagree. They can also leave their disagreements behind them and work together once the issue has been settled by free and open voting. It'll take the best efforts of us all to keep the American economy on the road to recovery. Let's leave our differences behind us and all of us get on with the Nation's business; an economic recovery that will mean more jobs and more opportunity for all of our people.

Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, why did you see it as such a squeaker? You had a pretty good margin.

The President. Well, I have to tell you that right down to the wire there was no one predicting anything but that it would be that close. There were -- I know in my own calls and meetings with Congressmen of both parties on this, there were a great many who very frankly stated that they were still in the process of making up their minds. So, you didn't have a definite commitment on them. And that's why there were conflicting reports coming as to which side might be ahead on this.

Q. Mr. President, are you concerned that you will lose conservative support out of all of this?

The President. No, not at all, because I think there's been a wrong perception. It was made evident the other night after I went on the air and explained this program. And immediately afterward, in certain surveys that were made and telephone checks that were made, it was amazing how many people had totally misunderstood the program or the bill and, once they understood it, that they said this now made them able to support it.

The first thing was, we have to think of the economic recovery program as not only just a separate bill that was passed last year; it is this entire, ongoing package. Just as our tax cuts are spread over several years, so are the spending cuts, with the idea that each year we would come back in with more that we had to do. And, therefore, to even have referred to this as a tax increase, I think, was wrong, because it was an adjustment of the tax cut that was passed last year and which still continues on into the coming years. And the truth of the matter is that even with this passed, the tax cut over the next 3 years will amount to $335 billion for the people. Next year they will double the gain that they have already made in their personal fortunes because of the tax cut.

So, I think that there was a perception on the part of some and an alarm that this represented some kind of change in philosophy. It does not. I still believe in the combination of incentive tax cuts that will increase productivity in this country and cuts, reductions in spending. And so I -- no, I don't think it will hurt the movement at all.

Q. Mr. President, some of the polls that have come out indicate that the majority of Americans oppose this tax increase bill. Are you concerned that by the time election day rolls around and some of these explanations have blown away that all people will remember are things like the 8-cent cigarette tax increase?

The President. I think what they're going to see and what is going to happen, that they are going to be thinking about, is I think the economy is going to continue to improve. I think that a failure to have passed this would have been a setback to the improvement of the economy. I think we would have seen, probably, interest rates going back up and a stagnation of -- and yet all the indices that we have now are supportive of the idea that things are getting better.

Q. You don't think this is going to hurt the Republicans in November.

The President. No, I don't think it's going to hurt anyone in November, frankly.

Q. Do you think the Senate is going to be easier than the House, Mr. President?

The President. Well, I don't know, but I think there we're going to see a bipartisan demonstration also.

Q. Mr. President, do you see this as a reaffirmation of your own prestige? You really have not lost one of these votes that you've gone all out to try to get.

The President. Oh -- [knocking on his desk] -- don't talk like that. You know, as an old sports announcer, I have to tell you that if a no-hitter is being pitched, you never mention it during the game or you'll jinx the pitcher. [Laughing] So, no, I think this is -- there have been a lot of people working on this, and there was a great team effort on both sides.

Q. Are you glad it's over?

The President. You bet.

Q. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 6:28 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.