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Republican State of the Union Expectations

Location: Washington, DC

January 28, 2003 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Republican State of the Union Expectations

MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) SENATE MAJORITY WHIP: Well when you're the president you have a lot of responsibility, and the president thinks that we need to lead with the economy because that's one of the major items on the minds of the American people, and he's going to cover it all.

But he's going to start off, we are told, on the economy, and I think that's the right place to start, because we're awfully anxious to hear his rationale for his particular proposal which I think, by the way, is a very good proposal.

GIBSON: Senator, let me jump to the war just a second. Maybe we'll go back to the economy. But, the president—it's been often said today that this is the Super Bowl of political speeches. He has the world's attention, the nation's attention. And yet the president is not going to go into a laundry list of reasons why an attack on Iraq is warranted and legitimate and more of the reasons specifically the intelligence information we have is going to come out next week. Why not do it tonight when everyone is listening?

MCCONNELL: Well look, one thing I do expect him to do is to point out that Iraq never complied with the U.N. resolution that was passed back in 1991 which required them—and they signed this, by the way—required them to go along with getting weapons of mass destruction. You know they've never been in compliance, so the only issue is how long are we going to put up with this, and the president's saying when you're talking about weapons of mass destruction, that can either directly or indirectly through the use of a gang like al Qaeda be used on Americans here at home, that's an unacceptable situation.

So wholly aside from finding some smoking gun it's clear and unambiguous Hans Blix made the point yesterday that the Iraqis aren't complying with the resolution that was passed 13 years ago.

GIBSON: You know Senator, American forces in Afghanistan came under attack today—are in a pitch battle with al Qaeda forces up in the mountains. Does the fact that that is occurring today underscore and help the president's argument on Iraq or detract from it?

MCCONNELL: The fact that that's happening what?

GIBSON: That we have an attack—that we are being attacked by al Qaeda again today?

MCCONNELL: Well it certainly illustrates that the war on terror is a long way from being over, and we know that Afghanistan—while we've made enormous progress there, has not completely settled down. That—that is still out there and I know the president is going to remind everybody that while we've been fortunate enough not to have another attack here at home after 9/11, the war goes on.

GIBSON: You know Senator, people everywhere that I talk to are—are concerned about the war but they're threat—they're more concerned about the economy. The polls show it; just talking to everyday people shows it. What is the rationale that says this tax cut the president is proposing will actually produce jobs, put people to work, and put the economy back on sturdier legs?

MCCONNELL: Look every time we've had a significant across the board tax relief—whether it was John F. Kennedy in the early '60s or Ronald Reagan in the early '80s, it generated a substantial economic boom. The reason the president came forward with a robust package of $670 billion is to get the economy rolling. That is the only way to deal with deficits at the federal level and at the state level is to have a robust economy.

The Democrats in contrast want to in one year drop about $130 billion in largely—almost overwhelmingly—spending projects on this $10.5 trillion economy. Frankly, John, that's like dropping a pebble in the ocean. It will simply do no good to jump-start the economy and to get the kind of growth that we need for the future.

GIBSON: Who—from the Republicans point of view and the president's point of view, who gets the tax cut? Is it the rich?

MCCONNELL: Everyone who pays taxes gets a substantial benefit from this. Give you an example of a—of a truck driver, a local delivery truck driver in Buffalo, New York and his wife who wants to be a clerk. Their salaries together add up to about $40,000 a year. Right now they pay $1100 in income taxes. Under President Bush's proposal they would pay no income taxes at all. That's real tax relief for people in the $40 to $45,000 income range. Below that almost no Americans pay any income taxes so if you're going to have a tax cut, obviously it has to go to those who are paying taxes.

GIBSON: Majority Whip Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Senator thank you very much for being with us.

MCCONNELL: Thank you John.

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