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Bush Signs Terrorism Relief Act

Aired January 23, 2002 - 15:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go live to Washington. You see the East Room of the White House. President Bush is about to make official the signing of the tax relief bill which provides relief for those who suffered from terrorism.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... that would provide a tangible measure of support for their families. The Victims of Terrorism Tax Relief Act will provide some tax relief to families of those killed in the attacks on September the 11, the anthrax attacks after September the 11, and the Oklahoma City bombing.

This is a small gesture compared to the overwhelming generosity of the American people in times of tragedy, yet this will help to extend that generosity, because it exempts payments from charities to victims' families from federal taxes.

This legislation is a bipartisan symbol of the federal government's concern for families who suffered such great loss.

I want to thank the members of Congress who are here. I particularly want to thank those who worked hard on the bill, Senator Torricelli of New Jersey, Senator Schumer and Clinton of New York.

And by the way, welcome back to the White House.

Senator Nickles of Oklahoma, Senator Allen and Warner of Virginia, Senator Baucus of Montana, Congressman Rangel of New York, Congressman Fossella of New York, Congressman Thomas of California, who couldn't be here, and all the other members, both Republicans and Democrats.

Welcome back to town, and welcome to the White House.

We are joined today by families who've lost loved ones in the great acts of evil. As you draw on faith and personal strength to cope with your grief, I hope you will also find comfort in the knowledge that your nation stands with you and prays for you. We mourn those whom we've lost, and we face the future together.

In times like these, we realize both the purpose and the limitations of government. The government cannot take away your pain and sorrow, but it can bring the killers to justice. It can devote its energy and resources to try to prevent other families from experiencing what you're going through. And it can help remove some of the financial obligations it imposes, to ease your burdens.

The Oklahoma City bombing was a terrible crime, and justice was done. And I can assure each of you that justice will be done to all those who are responsible for the evil acts of September the 11th.

We've already driven the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and we're helping a new government take its place. We've infiltrated Al Qaeda caves. We've destroyed their camps. And we'll continue to destroy their bunkers and their hideaways. We've put them on the run, and we'll hunt them down wherever they try to hide and bring them to justice.

As we wage the war on terrorism abroad, we will also comfort families deeply hurt by terrorism here at home. The members of the United States Congress who came together to pass this bill I'll sign today had one goal in mind: to help ease your financial burdens as you struggle to cope with the loss of your loved ones.

Many families lost their primary wage-earners in the attack on the Murrah Federal Building, in the attacks of September the 11th and in the anthrax attacks after September the 11th.

This financial strain deepens the emotional impact of the initial tragedies. The legislation passed by Congress will relieve the tax burden on families who've lost loved ones. Under this law, the federal government will collect no income taxes on wages earned by terrorism victims in the year of their death or in the preceding year. Families of victims killed in the Oklahoma City bombing will receive a tax refund on behalf of their relatives. Some death benefits paid by employers will be exempt from federal taxation.

Lower estate tax rates will apply to victims of terrorist attacks as well as to members of the armed services that have been killed in combat zones. And to help ensure that families receive as much relief as possible from charitable organizations, payments from charitable organizations to victims' families will be exempt from federal taxation.

The Victims of Terrorism Tax Relief Act is an important example of our national unity and resolve, and it is my honor to sign it today.

God bless.

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: President Bush making remarks making it official and signed the Victims of Terrorism Relief Act of 2001, an act that provides for no takes in the year of the death or preceding year of those who have died and reaching back those that suffered in the Oklahoma City bombing, they will actually get a refund. Let's go to Kelly Wallace who has been standing by listening as well -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that point you just mentioned, many people watching won't realize, but just as you noted, this will go not just those people who lost loved ones in the September 11 terrorist attacks, but obviously to the families who lost loved ones in Oklahoma City and also to those who lost loved ones in the anthrax attacks.

As you noted most significantly, no income taxes on wages earned by the victims in those attacks for this year and last year. Also, any special death benefits that might be afforded by employers to these families won't be subject to taxation and then, very significantly, any payments by charitable organizations -- as we know, lots of money has been donated by the American people, money going to those victims and their families -- that money will be exempt from taxation.

So this, another opportunity for the president to talk about a measure that, Leon, as you know, had absolute strong bipartisan support. Democrats and Republicans backed this. You saw the president basically signaling to those lawmakers who helped get the measure passed including New York's two Democratic senators, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer. And another, opportunity for the president to talk about the war, the progress we will hear that from Mr. Bush in the days ahead -- Leon.

HARRIS: One more thing, Kelly, did I hear lower estate taxes or state taxes? I did hear that as well.

WALLACE: You did -- estate taxes, talking about some benefits some relief when it comes to the estates of those who lost lives in these attacks, so some benefits there as well as any death benefits, again employers might be providing to these victims' families, those would be subject to no taxation as well -- Leon.

HARRIS: Thank you. Kelly Wallace at the White House. We do recall the debates that ensued after the September 11 attacks, about those that suffered in the Oklahoma City bombing and we do see that they are also included in this terrorism relief act. We will keep our eye on the story and report any developments to you.

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