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Special Event

President Clinton, Congressional Leaders Deliver Remarks on Budget, Congressional Agenda

Aired February 1, 2000 - 10:43 a.m. ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton now talking. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... open markets, fiscal discipline, and one that I think we can be all justifiably proud of, but we ought to be determined to continue to deepen, to improve.

I also am looking forward to working in what will be a fast-paced congressional year because of all the other things that are going on this year. But I think if we work together we can get a lot done.

And I'm hoping that, among other things, that the areas where there's already been some expressed interest in working together, like continuing to pay down the debt working on bringing economic opportunities to our new markets, saving Social Security -- these things will see some real progress.

As all of you know, we have some unfinished business that I would like to see dealt with. I hope we can allocate the interest savings from debt reduction to lengthen life to Social Security. I hope we can reach agreement on a Medicare reform package, which includes prescription drugs but also some reforms. I hope we can pass a Patients' Bill of Rights and see some action on the gun legislation and the minimum wage, and a few other things.

But, I think we can really get some things done. And I just want to say to all of you I am committed to working with and looking for a positive avenues to cooperate and I think we'll find some.

Mr. Speaker.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: I would like to let them speak and then we will take some questions.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think there is a lot of mutual ground that we can work with the president. We are looking forward to this legislative session. I think this an important time that we can really secure America's prosperity, and after all that's probably the best thing that we can hand on into this new decade and new century for our children, our grandchildren.

So we are committed to doing that. You know, I think there are some things that the president spoke about that we can work together on. I think paying down the debt is very, very important, and we can do that. I'm not sure we are going to do that in 13 years, or 12, or 14 or whatever that number is. But I think it can get done.

I also believe that we need to make sure that we save Social Security. We've taken the first step at doing that last year. I think that there are some other issues out there.

We would like to spread the prosperity that most American workers and American people have shared this year. I know in our agricultural sector, we need to do some important things -- we have some trade agreements that are really important for that sector of the economy, the American workers that we can move our products overseas. We would like to see that legislation move this year. And basically to work together, paying down the debt as we said before, securing Social Security for our future and our children's future, and to make sure that we can probably turn some of that money back.

We talked to the president about the marriage penalty tax; that's an important thing that we think we can work on. And some -- also cooperative effort on community renewal and New Markets Initiative, whatever you want to call it, something that I think we can work on too. And matter of fact we are beginning to work together, right now.

So, I think, I'm looking forward, I'm enthusiastic about this session. I look forward to working with the White House.

CLINTON: Trent.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Mr. President we thank you for inviting the bipartisan-bicameral leadership to be here this morning.

The American people expect us to work together to get some things done for our country and for our children's future. There will be distractions, and there will be disagreements. But I think there are areas where we can continue to make progress. You both already referred to it: keeping a balanced budget, paying down the debt, protecting and saving Social Security.

We need to do something to continue to help improve education in America.

There's some health care areas where we've got to work together.

And one area where I think we really need to focus this year, because we're going to have to, is in the trade area. Trade is good for everybody involved, and we need to make sure that we address some of these trade bills, the African Free Trade and CBI parity, as well as the China trade issue.

So we'll work together with you on that. We hope to also find a way to return some of the surplus back to the people that paid it.

But I believe, as I've looked at the agenda for this year, there are several areas where we can reach agreement, and I'll work in the Senate with Tom Daschle to try to make it happen.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President, this may be first I'm able to agree with every single word of both of my Republican colleagues as well as the president of the United States. And I appreciate, as Senator Lott has just noted, the opportunity for us to be with you.

Let me congratulate you on this 107-month expansion in our economy. As you said, this is unprecedented. This has never happened before, and it's no accident that it's happening now. It's a result of discipline, it's a result of real, sound fiscal and monetary leadership, and we can take great pride in it.

The question now for us is, how do we continue to ensure that it will be with us for many, many months and years to come? And how do we ensure that everybody is enjoying the fruits and the benefits of this expansion? Today I don't think we're able to say that. But if we do the kinds of things that you laid out in your State of the Union -- which I thought was an extraordinary presentation -- I think we're going to be in a much better position to do it.

But I share the priorities expressed by our two Republican leaders, that we pay off the public debt, that we show the kind of discipline in ensuring that we protect Social Security and Medicare, that we work on passing a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights and a minimum wage and some of the unfinished business of last year and add to it, I hope, the passage of a good prescription drug benefit this year.

So I think we've got a lot of opportunities to work together, and I'm encouraged by the comity and the real expressed sincere desire on the part of all leaders to work together in this session.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President, I'm a little hoarse from the Super Bowl, but...

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: Congratulations, Dick.

GEPHARDT: Thank you very much.

CLINTON: Did that guy rally catch that pass?

GEPHARDT: And the Titan did not get in the end zone in the end.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me say that no one predicted the Rams were going to win the Super Bowl or even be in it, but I guess no one's predicting that we can work together to get things done. I think we can, and I'm optimistic about it.

CLINTON: Helen, go ahead.

QUESTION: No one mentioned gun control. Thirty thousand people are killed every year by guns...

CLINTON: I think I did mention it.

QUESTION: And even the safety locks on (inaudible), what is this, that you can't get this through?

CLINTON: I'm not sure we can't. It passed the Senate and we've got it in the House, and I hope we can pass it. You can ask the House leaders more about that, but I intend -- I think I mentioned it, if I didn't, I certainly meant to mention it in my opening remarks, and I intend to work hard to try to pass it.

LOTT: On the juvenile justice bill -- the juvenile justice bill is actually in conference between the House and Senate, and some of those provisions will at least be a part of the consideration of that legislation.

QUESTION: Are you predicting it will pass?

LOTT: Oh, no, I'm not predicting. I'm just stating...

QUESTION: Why not?

LOTT: Because it hasn't been completed yet, but it is in conference and the conferees will be working on it.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Alaska Airlines crash in California?

CLINTON: Well, it's a terrible, tragic thing, of course. But, you know, we have real -- well-established procedures here for how these tragedies are handled through the established authorities. And I think before I make any substantive comment, we have to let them do their job.

But it was a very sad thing, and I, like more Americans, I suppose, I was watching it on television and, you know, the helicopters were out there soon after the tragedy occurred. It's a very sad thing.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you spoke to Tony Blair about the difficulties in chairing up the Good Friday Accord. Could you describe what you two said and what you think (inaudible)? And secondly, what has India done to convince you to travel there, despite it's lack of progress on nuclear proliferation?

CLINTON: Well, let me answer the first question. I spoke to Tony Blair, I spoke to Gerry Adams. We've been in constant contact with the Irish and the British governments, and I had a good meeting with David Trimble a few days ago. The thing's at such a point now that I think that any public comments I make on the merits at this moment might have more -- do more harm than good.

We are heavily involved in trying to get the Good Friday Accords implemented and get the present process supported. It's working great: the joint institutions are working well; new investment is going into Northern Ireland; the people have voted for a peace process that united people with differences, believe it or not, more profound than the ones that are represented around this table.

And they -- it's working. And it would be a tragedy if it were derailed. But in order to keep it going, everybody's going to have to -- you know, honor the terms of the agreement. And so, we are working on that now, and I think that's all I should say now.

HEMMER: Congressional leaders meeting with the president at the White House. A number of topics, the economy and the country, future budget talks as well, you heard the president mentioning the Northern Ireland peace process in addition to all that. We heard the comments about Alaska Airlines Flight 261. The president expressing his sadness and remorse for that, and urging patience to let the investigators do their job off the coast of California.

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