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Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle, Rep. Dick Gephardt Extend Hand of Bipartisanship to President-Elect George W. Bush

Aired December 14, 2000 - 10:37 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We take you now to the U.S. Senate. This is Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, also speaking with the House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: ... with both of them for years, we are proud to have supported them in their campaign, and we are especially proud to have stood with them over these last five weeks.

Last night, Americans saw why. The vice president's speech reminded us all that there are values that bind us together as Americans, and the allegiance we owe to those values is more important than the allegiance we owe to any political party. It was an extraordinarily wise and gracious speech, one I'm sure Americans will continue to read and reflect on for years to come.

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman made every responsible effort they could to secure a full and fair recount of the vote in Florida. They fought an unprecedented battle for a principle on which all Americans should be able to agree.

Now, the Supreme Court has concluded that the vote count cannot continue. I disagree with the majority's decision, but I, too, accept it. Under our Constitution, however, theirs is the last word.

As the vice president stated so eloquently last night, the election of 2000 has now ended. What we need now is not a continuation of the campaign. What we need is not more distrust and division. What we need now is acceptance.

We have a new president-elect. We have important work ahead of us. These last few years, and particularly these last few weeks, have tested the institutions of our government and the patience of our people. Those who are in government have an urgent responsibility to prove to the American people that our government can still work for them.

We stand on the edge of a new era in American politics. The presidential election was a tie. In the next election, the House will be nearly tied. The Senate will be tied at 50-50, and that has never happened before in our nation's history. Bipartisanship isn't an option anymore; it is a requirement. The American people have divided responsibility for leadership right down the middle. We must govern from the middle, or we will not be able to govern at all.

There are questions about this election for which we may never have answers, but there is no question about what the American people want the next president and the next Congress to work together to achieve: The issues that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman ran on, strengthening education, protecting Social Security and Medicare, adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, passing a real patients' bill of rights and using our current prosperity wisely and responsibly. These are the issues that will dominate the next Congress.

We also need real campaign finance reform to loosen the grip of special interests on politics so we don't go through two more years of gridlock.

And we must, before the next elections, correct the problems and inequities in the way we conduct and decide elections in the United States, so that we never again experience another election like the last one.

Democrats are ready to meet with President-elect Bush and Vice President-elect Cheney to talk about how we can work together to do each of these things. The campaign is over. It's time for the work of governing to begin.

REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Thank you, Tom.

I hold Al Gore in the highest regard, and deeply respect his decision to concede this election. Al Gore is a good man, who waged a tough fight for president of the United States. He committed himself to the issues the American people care about in their everyday lives. He comported himself with grace and dignity during the entire election contest. He fought with nobility for the democratic principle that the will of the people is paramount. His leadership as vice president and as a presidential candidate will serve as an inspiration to all of us as we move forward in the important days ahead.

This election was hard fought, and one of the most closely contested in the history of our country. We understand that passions ran high and that views on both sides may have hardened during the legal process, but it's time for our nation to come together and heal.

One of the great testaments to our democracy is that following national elections, all Americans respect our system of democracy and join together and support whoever wins.

Al Gore did that last night in his very moving, very gracious concession speech. He reached out to America, and I hope America will respond to his call. Indeed, as the vice president said, the time has come to end this election and unite. Democrats on Capitol Hill are prepared to start doing that today.

President-elect Bush made a good start last night with a speech that sought common ground for our country. He promised to base his administration on a set of simple, but very important, principles: compromise, consensus, unity and dialogue.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are prepared to work with him in our shared goal to lift up the hopes and dreams of all Americans. Tom and I tried to place a call to President-elect Bush a few moments ago. We were not able to get through right now, but we hope to be able to talk with him today.

Next month, when the new Congress comes in, we're going to face one of the most divided congresses in history. The Senate, as Tom said, is absolutely tied at 50-50. The House is almost split down the middle. The presidential election was razor-thin.

But while the election ended up in a virtual tie, the American people do not want gridlock. They want us to act on the issues that matter most to them: making every public school a great school, getting Medicare prescription medicine for our seniors, passing a strong patients' bill of rights, tax cuts for the middle class, campaign reform and election reform.

President-elect Bush says he will bring a new spirit to Washington. There's still some Republicans in Washington who have not yet heard this message. We appeal to those who would remain committed to the "my way or highway agenda," unbending to compromise, uninterested in consensus, to reconsider the new spirit that President-elect Bush is wanting to bring to Washington.

The true test for all of us: Will we engage in a constructive, ongoing dialogue on a bipartisan agenda that can achieve the goals that we all share, or will it be a take-it-or-leave-it approach to passing legislation? Genuine compromise means having a true give- and-take.

We're going to disagree; we know that. But let those disputes be open and honest, and let us have honest compromise, not dictation, as our guiding principle over the coming years.

To achieve the former, I called Speaker Hastert after the election and congratulated him on keeping the majority. Last month, the speaker and I met in his office, and it was a good meeting. I am committed to building a solid working relationship with him and with the majority in the House. We're encouraging our members to get to know one another better, to reach across party lines, so we're in a better position to get things done next year.

But this takes time, but it's also within our grasp.

If the president-elect is as he says truly committed to uniting this country, I believe in my head, in my heart, that Republicans and Democrats can accomplish great things in the next two years.

As President -- Vice President Bush -- Vice President Gore said last night, America is a great country. We've proved our resilience in this election. Now let us move forward in the name of all Americans and work together to fulfill the human potential of each and every one of us.

QUESTION: Mr. Gephardt, one of the -- right off the bat...

KAGAN: Listening to comments there from House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt; also Senator -- Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle as they speak from the U.S. Senate this morning, sending out words, complimenting Al Gore's speech last night, but also extending a hand of bipartisanship to George W. Bush, the president-elect, and to Dick Cheney, the vice president-elect, saying that they are ready to work with the two men, to meet with them.

Dick Cheney has been up on Capitol Hill meeting with Republican members of Congress, and it looks like the Democratic members are ready to meet with him as well.

One other note: We expect to hear from Sen. Joe Lieberman at the top of the hour. We will bring you those comments as well.

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