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President-Elect Bush Meets with Congressional LeadersAired December 18, 2000 - 11:01 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: George W. Bush meeting with the four leaders of Congress. Let's listen in to the president-elect.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: I made it clear to each that I come to Washington with the intention of doing the people's business, that I look forward to listening and occasionally talking, to work with both the Republicans and the Democrats.
I told all four that I felt like this election happened for a reason -- that it pointed out the delay in the outcome. It should make it clear to all of us that we can come together to heal whatever wounds may exist, whatever residuals there may be.
And I really look forward to the opportunity. I hope they've got my sense of optimism about the possible and enthusiasm about the job.
I told all four that there are going to be some times where we don't agree with each other, but that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.
But I'm excited. I'm excited about the potential. And I'm excited about what we can do together for America.
It's a great honor to be here. Again, I want to thank you all very much for your kindness and your hospitality.
Not quite through yet, Carl.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, thank you very much, President-elect Bush. And thank you for your graciousness of visiting with us today.
You know, I think it's quite appropriate, we're in the Rayburn Room, named after another Texan a couple of decades ago that was able to really get a lot of things done for the American people, and much of it on a bipartisan basis. So I think that's a good start. And I just want to let you know, Mr. President, that we welcome you here in this Capitol, just as you are welcomed in your state capital in Austin, Texas, in a bipartisan way. We look forward to this relationship. We look forward to working together to get things done for the American people. And certainly a warm and gracious welcome here to the people's capital.
BUSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
HASTERT: Thank you.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Mr. Speaker, all four of us, serve or served in the House of Representatives, and we're delighted to be here in the Rayburn Room and to welcome our president- elect.
This is a time for a new beginning, a new atmosphere, a new tone. I believe we have a leader in George W. Bush that will provide direction toward a more cooperative atmosphere.
We also in the Congress are talking and communicating more than perhaps we have sometime in the past. Senator Daschle and I have been having regular meetings. We are committed to working together on an aggressive schedule to consider his nominations for confirmation. I think that'll be an important part of getting off to a good start.
I'm excited for our country. I know that we can come together on an agenda early that will have bipartisan support but, more importantly, will have the enthusiastic support of the American people. The things they care about, we must work together on. We will find a way to do it.
So, President-elect George W. Bush, welcome to the Capitol, and we look forward to many more opportunities to visit with you here and at your new place also.
BUSH: Thank you, sir.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. Speaker and Mr. President-elect and leaders, we had a very good meeting this morning. I appreciate Governor Bush coming here and talking with us. We had a very encouraging meeting. And we look forward to working with him and his new administration in the days ahead to get the people's business done.
I want to reiterate what President-elect Bush said about working together. And sometimes there's a message in an election, in the way an election comes out, and I agree with him and I agree with what Al Gore said the other night when he said, sometimes God sends a message about how things should go.
I had a meeting with constituents some months back, and I had someone stand up and say, "The trouble with you people in Washington is you're always fighting and you never compromise, you never get anything done." And the next person got up and said, "The trouble with you people in Washington is you're always compromising and you never fight for what you believe in." And I said, "You know, I hope you're all listening to this. This is a real contradiction. I can't do both." And then a third person stood up and said, "No, you don't get it. We know you fight for what you believe in and we want you to do that, but we also want you to finally negotiate your way to a solution to get things done for us."
And I think that was the message of this election. That's what the president-elect and I talked about today.
And I can tell you that we will be there, coming 50 percent of the way, sometimes even a little further, to the middle to get things done for the people that sent us here and hired us.
Now, we'll hear from Tom Daschle, our great friend from the United States Senate.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President-elect, Mr. Speaker, fellow leaders, I too welcome our new president-elect in the most heartfelt and sincere way. This is a historic moment. It isn't often that the four leaders have the opportunity to meet with the president under any circumstances, but it's especially a privilege for us to have the opportunity to meet with him now.
It's an opportunity for us to wipe the slate clean, to begin anew, with a recognition that we have many, many challenges ahead. And as we face those challenges, the only real choice for us is to recognize that bipartisanship isn't an option, it's a requirement.
And as we go forward, it is my sincere desire to work with our Republican colleagues in the Congress, to work with the president- elect to accomplish as much as the American people expect of us. We can do no less.
QUESTION: Mr. Gephardt, three times yesterday you refused to call Mr. Bush a legitimate president. I have two questions: Why? And second, why should the American people believe that you will work with this man when you question his legitimacy.
Senator Daschle, do you consider Mr. Bush a legitimate president?
And perhaps the president-elect would like to comment on your answers.
BUSH: Yes, is my answer.
GEPHARDT: Well, a little later today I believe, and maybe it's already happened, the electors are going to elect George W. Bush to be the next president of the United States, and I believe on January 20, not too many steps from here, here's going to be sworn in as the next president of the United States. I don't know how you can get more legitimate than that.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: As we are listening to congressional leaders meet with the president-elect from the White House South Portico, we will see Hillary Clinton standing there, off to the right, waiting for Laura Bush to emerge from that black limousine.
(INTERRUPTED BY COVERAGE OF A LIVE EVENT)
HEMMER: As the two women disappear, back to Capitol Hill and George W. Bush, president-elect.
BUSH: There's going to be a lot of discussions, a lot of head- knocking, a lot of kind of gentle arm-twisting. I'm sure they'll be twisting my arm. I might try to twist a few myself to reach what's right for America.
And I believe I'm standing here because I campaigned on issues that people heard. And one of those issues is tax relief; another is education reform; another is health care reform; another military, making sure our military is not only strong today, but modern for the future.
We need to have long discussions about Social Security and how to make sure that we not only have -- people have options and say over their own money, but a plan that helps the accumulation of capital, so that entrepreneurial growth continues.
We got a lot of room, a lot of areas to discuss. And I've got opinions, and they've got opinions.
It's amazing what happens when you listen to the other person's opinion. And we began the process of doing that today.
I am mindful of the difference between the executive branch and the legislative branch. I assured all four of these leaders that I know the difference. And that difference is, they pass the laws and I execute them. I'd just like to have a say. And that's what a campaign is all about.
And so I really look forward to the continued discussions. This isn't -- as far as I'm concerned, this is the beginning of relationships. I hope they realize that this isn't a single photo opportunity, and that maybe we'll see each other and talk to each other in the future.
That's just not the way I do business, and I wanted to come and look them in the eye and say that.
QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, on the point of tax cuts, sir, isn't it possible this past year that perhaps it wasn't the most tenable of ideas -- it was done with the intent to make an end run around Steve Forbes early on in the campaign. Particularly now, in light of worries about the economy, it's something that you may not be able to sell. And I'm wondering, sir, if the Republican leadership on the Hill, if they did not pass that tax cut, would they in fact be throwing you a lifeline and taking some of the pressure off an untenable program?
BUSH: Well, actually, first, I think you're going to find out about me. I campaigned and say things because I believe them. And the reason I campaigned on a tax relief package is because I believe it. I believe it's essential for our country to make the code more fair.
One of the things we didn't have time to discuss today, but I'm confident we will, is that part of the tax relief package made the code more fair for people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.
You see, one of the dreams that we all share -- and I'm confident that Democrats share the same dream that Republicans do -- they want the middle-class accessible to all and yet the tax code makes it awfully difficult for some. And so I spent a lot of time talking about that on the campaign trail because I believe it, not because I was trying to position myself against another candidate.
Secondly, I talked about marginal rate reduction to serve as an insurance policy against a potential economic downturn. I was saying that a year ago. The potential economic downturn is perhaps more real today than it was a year ago.
And I look forward to making my case to both the leaders on the Republican side and Democrat side, that marginal rate reductions will help spur economic activity and economic growth. I think the case is even more solid today than it was a year ago when I started campaigning on the issue.
So it's not only -- my views relate to the economy as well as the fairness in the code and, as I say, I look forward -- I understand everybody's not going to agree with anything I say, but the good news is that we have started the process where they get to listen and I listen as well to different points of view.
QUESTION: Sir, did you access your tax program with the chairman of the Fed this morning?
BUSH: The reason I hesitate is I'm not so sure the chairman of the Fed wants me to be discussing in public what I discuss with him in private.
QUESTION: In the past, some aspects of...
BUSH: Maybe you ought to ask him his opinion.
We had a very good meeting. Alan Greenspan is an extraordinary man who has the respect of all five of us up here. And he's got his views about the short term and the long term of the economy, but it's best that he describe those view to you.
But I did, I spent a lot of time talking to him about a variety of subjects, including energy. And we must be concerned in this country about energy. We must be concerned about shortages and at the same time, obviously, concerned about conservation. And we spent a lot of time talking about energy.
And I understand the responsibility of the executive branch is to lay out an energy strategy, what's good for everybody in this country. And that's exactly what we're going to do. And I'm looking forward to explaining the rationale behind the strategy to the members and the leaders who are here. Last question, then I got to keep moving.
BUSH: Yes, very good.
QUESTION: Sir, you were fond of saying, during the campaign, that you would come to Washington and announce to the Congress that you had a mandate, that you campaigned on these issues, including tax relief, and that you were going to need that through. The truth of the matter is that, as you acknowledged in your acceptance speech, the country is not speaking with a clear voice, so are you prepared to say today that there is no room for compromise on the size and the scope of your tax cut plan?
BUSH: What I'm prepared to say today is that I laid out, in specific, what I think is right when it comes to tax relief.
I still believe it's the right thing. And my first priority was to come to the Hill and explain why I think it's the right thing to Republicans and Democrats. They may or may not agree it's the right thing, but I'm going to keep explaining until the votes start coming.
And, secondly, I believe the reason I stand here is because I took clear and strong positions on important issues such as tax relief or Medicare reform or Social Security reform or education reform. And I look forward to working with the members to get it done with one thing in mind: What's best for the country? What is best for the country? And that's the question that I'm going to ask.
And the good news is that, after my meeting with the four members up here, they asked the same question. And it's a darn good place to start.
Thank you all very much.
KAGAN: We were listening to comments from President-elect George W. Bush, as he holds a news conference there, holds comments with the four leaders of Congress, you had Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle. Very different positions, very different political places that those gentlemen are coming from on either side of the president-elect.
Let's bring in our Chris Black, who is standing by on Capitol Hill.
Chris, there you had a picture. If a picture could tell a story, you are looking at George W. Bush's future, trying to do the balancing act between the conservatives in Congress and the Democrats.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Daryn. It was interesting that they held that press conference in the Rayburn Room, which is a beautiful sitting room just off the House floor that is named after Speaker Sam, Sam Rayburn of Texas, who was known for his ability to get things done. And that is what each of these leaders talked about today publicly after their private meetings with President-elect Bush. It is getting things done.
They are having a difficult time getting to the specifics of those, but we are told by sources who were in those meetings that the governor spent a great deal of time talking not only about tax relief today, but also about energy policy, which he just alluded to. In fact, he also discussed that with Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Fed.
There was a great deal of discussion, according to sources in his meeting with Speaker Hastert and the House Republican leaders about what the government could do to keep the economy going, that is something that both Dick Cheney, the vice president-elect, and President-elect Bush have been speaking about in the last few weeks, a concern that the economy may be slowing.
But all of these leaders, it wasn't exactly a love-fest, but they clearly are trying the get off on the right foot, and try to at least develop a positive working relationship at the beginning of this new administration -- Daryn.
KAGAN: Chris, it wasn't a love-fest, but it was respectful. But you heard House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt asked about comments he made yesterday on the Sunday shows. He said he respects George W. Bush, he will support him, but he just couldn't get the word legitimate out. He was just asked about that during this news conference.
BLACK: Dick Gephardt is a very partisan man, but all the Democrats accept the legitimacy of George W. Bush's election, they are just not willing to say that he has a mandate. They don't believe he does have a mandate.
What both Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle intended to tell George W. Bush today, in their private meetings with him, is that there is -- bipartisanship means accepting part of our agenda, particularly items that have a lot of bipartisan support up here, things like a minimum wage increase, things like HMO reform, things like campaign finance reform, all of those items have passed the House already, but died at the end of the 106th Congress because they were not able to reach a final compromise with Republicans.
KAGAN: Chris Black, on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
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