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Cheney Holds News Briefing with Republican House Leaders

Aired December 5, 2000 - 9:34 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And now we have a chance to see the man that George W. Bush is calling vice president, Dick Cheney, appearing with Congressman J.C. Watts, also with House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Let's go and listen to Congressman Watts.

REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: Good morning.

We are back in town, obviously, and we had the former secretary of defense with us, Secretary Cheney. Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney had an opportunity to meet with the speaker and the majority leader several days ago, and the secretary was gracious enough to come by today and visit with us. And we're delighted to have him here on the Hill with us, former member and actually a constituent of mine.

Halliburton has a facility in Duncan, Oklahoma. It was actually started in Duncan, Oklahoma. So I've gotten to know the secretary quite well over the last six years.

And we're delighted, the speaker and all of our members, Republican members in the House, we're delighted to have the secretary with us this morning. And so I'm going to, at this time, turn it over to the speaker if he has anything and then Mr. Secretary.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: Thank you, J.C. Actually, J.C. had a busy weekend pulling for Oklahoma, I think. But it's good to be here back in session. We have some work that we have to finish up. We had a meeting with the White House last night to try to start to lay out those parameters of getting done.

But the real focus here today is, we're able to welcome back a member of the House, somebody who has served in a lot of leadership capacities, policy chair, J.C.'s spot of conference chairman, and then whip for the House. In the minority, when we're in the minority, and a good friend of mine, somebody who came today and kind of renewed relationships, but certainly to bring us together in the House conference, because what we really want to do is start to go to work and get things done for the American people.

I think we want to make sure that on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, both the House and the Senate, in a bipartisan way, can come together and get the things done, whether it's health care or paying down the debt or tax relief or better situations for our folks who serve our country in our armed forces, that we can work together with the people at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the White House to get good things done for the American people.

It's my great pleasure to introduce a person, who I think probably will play a very, very major role in that, my good friend and former colleague, Dick Cheney.



J.C., thank you.

Well, I'm delighted to be back in the House and have an opportunity to spend some time with so many old friends and colleagues. I spent 10 years here back in the '80s, left in early 1989, and it's always a special privilege to be able to come back and meet with my former colleagues in the Republican conference.

I'm here this morning at Governor Bush's behest. When we met this weekend down at the ranch in Crawford with Speaker Hastert and Leader Lott, they extended an invitation for me to come up today to spend some time on the Hill with the Republican members, which I'm happy to do. Had an opportunity this morning to meet with the Republican conference. And later on today, after some individual meetings on the Hill with various members of the leadership, I'll also have the opportunity to have lunch with the Senate Republicans at their regular Tuesday lunch.

The main subject of conversation that I wanted to hold -- again, at the request of the governor -- today is to talk to Republican members about the transition, about the process that's under way, about our ongoing efforts to get on with the business of putting together a Cabinet, and building an administration so that we'll be ready to exercise our responsibilities, beginning on January 21.

We feel very good about what happened yesterday in Florida. Obviously, I think those two court decisions, both the one by the U.S. Supreme Court that vacated the earlier decision by the Florida Supreme Court, as well as the district judge's decisions last night in the Florida contest case, were affirmations of the fact that, with respect to the vote in Florida, the votes have been counted and recounted and now certified.

And Governor Bush and I feel that it validated the decisions that had been made previously, and indicate, once again, that we did prevail in the election in Florida.

Hopefully, we will be able to get on in fairly short order with the business of preparing for governing and the transition is up and running and operational now.

And we look forward to meeting with members of the Congress, of both parties, to be able to start the process that the governor outlined in our meetings with the Republican leadership this weekend, in terms of a legislative program and a robust effort to get on with the business of dealing with the nation's problems. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is your message for Vice President Gore, sir?

CHENEY: I didn't come today with a message for Vice President Gore.


CHENEY: I can't...


CHENEY: I've addressed that issue. I really don't want to go beyond what I've already said.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, at what point to you think it would be appropriate to start reaching out to Democrats, meeting with them as you have here?

CHENEY: The question is, at what point would it be appropriate to start reaching out to Democrats? Governor Bush has begun that process on a limited basis. He's had conversations I know with at least one senator, as he indicated this weekend, with Senator Breaux.

I think, at this point, some Democratic members may feel uncomfortable having those conversations until there's a further resolution of matters on their side of the aisle. We certainly understand that, but we do look forward to the time when we will be able to enter into conversations with members of the other political faith.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there seems to be some latter day question about how to correctly pronounce your last name. How do you pronounce it? How do you want us to pronounce it?

CHENEY: How do I pronounce my last night and how do I want you to pronounce it? Well, the family's always said Cheney with an "e" and that was especially true West growing up. I find, when I came East, that the tendency was to say Cheney with an "a". I'll respond to either. It really doesn't matter.

QUESTION: Cheney with an "a"?

CHENEY: Cheney is fine, but, you know, it's close enough. If you guys get that I right, I'll be happy.

QUESTION: What is your slate of priority legislation?

CHENEY: What will our first legislative priorities be? The governor addressed those this weekend, again. Talked about the importance of education, continuing interests for us as well, the importance of Medicare and Social Security reform, as well as our tax program.

I think that it's important to emphasize, as the governor has, that we believe we've gotten this far and been successful because of the agenda of issues that we worked in this campaign, that those are issues that the American people care about, and we'd like to be able to work on those issues in the new Congress on a bipartisan basis with members of both parties to achieve important results for the country.

So the issue agenda hasn't, really, been changed or modified in any significant way. Clearly, there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we would have packages that we could work with members of Congress, in terms of seeking their advice and counsel as well.

We'll expect to work with them as we put those packages together.

Thank you very much.

KAGAN: We've been listening to former secretary of state, former Congressman Dick Cheney, or Cheney as he also described how his name can be pronounced, more on that in just a second, as he goes up to Congress today. He is meeting with the Republican members of the House. He's very familiar with that. As he mentioned, he served 10 years representing the state of Wyoming.

Let's go ahead and see what the House speaker has to a say.

HASTERT: ... for the courts and the laws, and that's the place that people go for remedy.

I expect that the courts will speak again with finality, and I think it'll be over at that point. But I don't think we want to call anything until the courts have their final say.

KAGAN: One final comment there from the House speaker, from Dennis Hastert, talking about when this race might be over. Clearly, the Republicans very pleased with, not one, but two rulings coming out of courts yesterday, both from the U.S. Supreme Court and also out of circuit court in the state of Florida, both ruling in favor of the Bush camp.

And once again about Dick Cheney. He said when you go east, they say his last name Cheney; in the West, the family name, he says, it has been pronounced Cheney. And showing clearly, he doesn't care, as long as you address him respectfully, he will respond.

Let's bring in our Eileen O'Connor, who has been covering Congress for us this morning.

Eileen, any comments you want to get on those comments we heard from Dick Cheney.

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you saw, he was talking about the legislative agenda, which a lot of Republican strategists feel is very important for both of these men, but for Governor Bush, for whoever is elected president, for that first 100 days, because you do have such a divided House and the Senate with the 50/50 split, if Governor Bush ends up being the president. So, obviously, legislative agenda very important.

Interestingly, Dick Cheney talking about reaching across the aisle. Now this is something that the Bush campaign wants to be seen as doing because they do believe that, to unite the country, there's a feeling that this has to be a kind of bipartisan approach here.

And so, obviously, he talked a lot about that, about Governor Bush trying to reach out to Democrats.

You know also, Daryn, the Democrats are having their caucus right now. And Senator Lieberman is there, at the House caucus. And they are talking about the support for the vice president's efforts in Florida. And I've been talking to aides on Capitol Hill, and they're saying that that both in the House and the Senate side, they are saying that that support is not waning. That despite these defeats, the House and Senate Democrats are standing firm behind the vice president's efforts to get those ballots counted.

They do note, though, that there was some concern expressed yesterday, what does this do to this clock that is ticking, especially butting up against that December 12th deadline. There is concern among the Hill Democrats that time, at least, is running out -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And Eileen, I would imagine that that unified front, and that show of support from the Democratic caucus, within Congress, is very important to Al Gore?

O'CONNOR: It absolutely is. and you are going to be seeing Senator Lieberman and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt coming out to the cameras in about 15 or 20 minutes from now. Also, later on, Senator Lieberman will be over at the Senator Caucus. They have their own separate caucus, with Tom Daschle and other Senate Democrats. Yes, this support is critical. And in order for the efforts of the vice president to go on, he does need the support of Democrats on Capitol Hill.

You know, it was critical on both sides during the impeachment. Even though the public opinion was going against the Republicans on impeachment, they still had the members in both Houses behind it, and that is what really kept it going for them. And vice-versa, when the public opinions polls went against the Democrats, it's the support on Capitol Hill that means so much -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Eileen O'Connor, in Washington, thank you very much.



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