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Special Event

Majority Leader Dick Armey Delivers Republican Response to President's First Formal News Conference

Aired February 16, 2000 - 3:31 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And again, this was the president's first formal news conference of the year, lasted about an hour. So we want to get some Republicans response, so we turn to House Majority Leader Dick Armey who joins us from Capitol Hill.

Good afternoon to you.

I want to talk to you about some of the things that the president said he would like Congress to take up; one of those to devote more than half of the non-Social Security surplus to Medicare. And also forming a prescription drug program for older Americans. What do you think about those plans?

REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, these are all important issues. The fact of the matter is the president did join us last year and is now continuing to stay with us in stopping a rate of Social Security and setting all of that money aside. We thought we were going to get off to a good start on Medicare reform. We had the Breaux Commission that he himself created, and he killed that commission report.

So yes, we share his anxiety. We have to catch up now since that commission was shoved aside by the White House just over a year ago. Now we have to get focused also on the question of prescription medicines for our needy seniors, try to put in place a program are we can help the people that are really in need and not disrupt the already existing opportunities and programs that the majority of our seniors have in place. Again, I think a lot of careful thought, a lot of very fine-tuning, but I think we'll get that part done this year.

ALLEN: What about tougher gun control laws, Mr. Armey? Anything in that area?

ARMEY: Well, this is a real frustration to me. The fact of the matter is the president again now has finally understood it's about enforcement. You know, it doesn't matter what laws are on the book if the criminal or the perpetrator doesn't believe he'll be discovered, the law will be enforced, he'll be prosecuted, he'll pay a penalty. So we're focusing on enforcement. We've got legislation that's tied up now, where we can get more effective enforcement.

Here in the area of D.C. or in Virginia, they have put in a very tough enforcement program. It's working in the state of Virginia. I think it will work across the nation.

So what I would like to do is to say the president, Mr. President, lets you and I get together with our respective parties and let's put away the political fight over gun legislation, let's stop the political one-upmanship and let's get that legislation broken out that is currently bottled up in the Senate by Senator Daschle and others that'll allow to us get this enforcement legislation out for the safety of our children.

ALLEN: Anything else he didn't talk about that's important to the Republicans this year?

ARMEY: Well, no, actually the president talked about -- I found it a little bit amusing -- where we are in general agreement, like on the earnings limitation, like the marriage penalty, like stopping rate on Social Security, The president anticipated, yes, we can get that done. Then he spent a little bit of time saying, well, Republicans won't pass my priorities through the House that they don't share, and of course we live with the fact he won't sign our priorities into law that he doesn't share with us.

So we've got hopes and dreams that he won't sign into law, he's got hopes and dreams that we won't sign into law, but there is a very large amount of very important work before the American people that we can have sign into law. Again for example, just, what, a year ago we responded to the concerns about the cold, frozen Northeast and we appropriated the money for increased (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in emergency situations. We've sat here frustrated at tears for the last three or four weeks. Why wasn't that money released? Well today, the president finally released the money. We had the money in place. We understood the need. We don't want these folks, especially these seniors, to sit there freezing to death in the cold, in the dark, and we had the money put out there.

Now the president finally has released it, and I have to tell you, I'll feel better tonight when I realize these folks will get some relief from this.

ALLEN: And finally, Mr. Armey, I want you to comment about the president being asked about the Republican presidential contenders using him and his character as a punching bag. And to that, he said that he didn't want to complicate their problems; their having difficulty finding something to run on, being able to tout the economy and the fact that crime is down. What's your response to that?

ARMEY: Well, I think quite the contrary. Governor Bush, for example, has an outstanding record on which to tax reduction, his education reforms, his reduction of crime in the state of Texas. We're very proud of what our governor has accomplished as a governor.

And quite frankly, we're looking forward to what he will accomplish working together with us as and the majority when he's the president, starting in January of next year.

ALLEN: All right, Majority Leader Dick Armey, thank you for joining us from Capitol Hill. ARMEY: Thank you.

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