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Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 26, 2007

Aboard Air Force One
En route Waco, Texas

11:15 A.M. EST

MR. STANZEL: Good morning, everybody. We are on our way to Waco, Texas. The President will be there, as you know, until the first, and don't really have that many public activities planned, so it should be a quiet time.

The President did this morning sign the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2008, also known at the omnibus -- he signed that shortly after boarding the plane this morning. The omnibus funds the government at responsible levels that the President proposed without raising taxes. It provides a down payment for our troops who are in harm's way without arbitrary withdrawal timelines. We continue to be disappointed with Congress's addiction to earmarks. And soon the President will outline his fiscal year 2009 budget proposal, which will hold the line on spending, keep taxes low and continue us on the path to a balanced budget.

I would also note that the President also signed 15 other bills once he boarded the plane. We'll get you a full list of those shortly here. Included in those are the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2007, also known as the AMT; and Terrorism Risk Insurance Reauthorization and Extension, and then a number of other bills that we'll provide the list to you.

So with that, I'll take your questions.

Q Did the President have any kind of signing statement or letter along with the omnibus bill to direct agencies not to go ahead with the earmarks -- anything of that sort?

MR. STANZEL: Well, you'll have a statement; I expect we will be able to release a statement by the President here shortly. Hopefully once we land we'll have that ready for you. But that is an issue that Director Nussle is looking into. So no decisions have been made on that front, but certainly as you noted in the President's press conference last week, he talked about directing the OMB Director, Jim Nussle, to look at ways -- or look at avenues by which the federal government can address those earmarks.

There are 9,800 earmarks in this omnibus bill. When you couple that with the defense appropriations bill, it's up near 12,000 earmarks, totaling I believe around $10 billion. And as you know, the President proposed earlier this year limiting earmarks and cutting the number and the dollar amount in half. And it seemed to have wide support in Congress at the time when we laid that out, yet Congress continues to drop these provisions into bills late at night. So those are issues that we're taking a look at, and you'll see the signing statement. The signing statement will -- or the statement by the President, rather, will note our dissatisfaction with continued addiction to earmarks.

Q Can you clarify, has there been a signing statement at this point?

MR. STANZEL: No. What you'll see is what we'll provide you when we land.

Q Is the President concerned at all that these cross-border raids by Turkey in northern Iraq on Kurdish targets are going to begin to escalate into something broader?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the PKK is a terrorist organization and is an organization that is a destabilizing force to Iraq. We have worked with our allies in Turkey and Iraq on these issues, as we've noted before, we've shared intelligence. We've also made it clear to the Turkish government that anything that could lead to escalated concerns or civilian casualties; we have concerns about those steps.

But the Iraqis don't want terrorists in their country and the PKK is a destabilizing force in the northern part of Iraq. So we continue to work collaboratively, both with Iraq and Turkey, on these issues.

Q Is the S-CHIP bill included in those 15 bills?

MR. STANZEL: I don't believe so -- let me see if I brought the list with me. We'll get you the list. I don't believe -- that's in the extension. There may be an extension in the omnibus of that, but I don't know exactly where that is.

Q You said about the President's week -- I think you may have said no, or not many public appearances. Will there actually -- will there be any?

MR. STANZEL: Nothing to announce at this point. I don't expect any. So the President will be on his ranch spending time with family. As you saw, he was joined today by his daughters and the First Lady and the First Lady's mother, Jenna Welch. And so I expect them to have some time together. I expect the President will take a few bike rides and have regular briefings, but I don't expect any public activities -- but we'll keep you posted.

Q Is Henry onboard AF1?

MR. STANZEL: Yes.

Q I didn't hear what you asked?

Q Henry.

Q Oh. Any other visitors that you know of?

MR. STANZEL: Not to tell you right now.

Q Do you know who is with him from the Chief of Staff's Office?

MR. STANZEL: Well, we'll have various staff there, but we can keep you posted; nobody on the plane right now from the Chief of Staff's Office.

All right. Thank you.

END 11:21 A.M. EST


http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/12/20071226.html



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