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Special Event

Bush Transition Holds Regular News Briefing

Aired January 19, 2001 - 1:43 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: You can already see, Ari Fleischer, spokesman for George W. Bush, holding a news conference. So we will bring you some comments from him for a moment.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.-DESIGNATE: He will have lunch with the GOP House and Senate leadership. And in the evening he will have the Speaker Hastert over.

Tuesday, he is going to have coffee with the joint congressional educational leadership in the morning. That will be bipartisan. And then he will submit his education package to the Hill sometime Tuesday afternoon, early afternoon. He will have additional meetings with members of Congress Tuesday afternoon. And he will have Senator Lott over late in the afternoon for a private meeting.

Wednesday, he will have a bipartisan meeting with the House and Senate leadership. And he will also, on Wednesday afternoon, go to the Department of Education, where he will swear in Dr. Paige, if he is confirmed as secretary of education by that time.

He will also that evening, on Wednesday evening, have a private meeting with Senator McCain.

On Thursday, the president will have some additional education events, some reading events and Head Start event. And Thursday evening he will meet also with members of Congress, I believe all from the Education Committees at that point, who are concerned with education.

Friday, he will have lunch with freshmen members of Congress at the White House, and he will also have some meetings with some governors Friday afternoon focused on education.

Saturday night, on the 27th, just glancing ahead, he will have dinner at the Alfalfa Club dinner.

And one event I did not mention on Monday, I should have, in the afternoon he is going to have a meeting with successful reading providers. If you recall, one of the cornerstones of his education reform packages was teaching children how to read, a $5 billion reading initiative that will be aimed at young children, making sure that by third grade every young child in America is given the skills, no matter what school they are in, what are of the country they come from, so they're able to read by third grade.

And that is the overview of the schedule for the week. One final note I would like to make. You know, one of the things that the president-elect ran on and he said he would do is acts of bipartisanship, noting people who engage in helping to change the tone in Washington. And I would like to bring to your attention the words of Senator Robert Byrd, the dean of the Democrats in the Senate, last night on "Larry King," and this deals with the nomination of John Ashcroft, when Senator Byrd declared that he was going to vote for John Ashcroft.

And he went on, Senator Byrd did, to say, in regard to whether there'd be a filibuster or not, and I don't have any information that there will be, but he said that he hopes there won't be. He said, "This is not a time for filibuster, this is a time for us to work together. The president has nominated this man, he's had his hearings, he's had an opportunity to explain his position." Senator Byrd said, "He said time and time again that his opinion was one thing when he enacted the laws, but he is swearing an oath to enforce them now. These are two different things, two different offices, and I believe Ashcroft means what he says." And we are very grateful to Senator Byrd for those kind words of bipartisanship and very pleased to see the progress being made with all the nominations on Capitol Hill.

The Senate will convene, I believe, at 3:00 on Saturday. And so I would draw your attention to events in the Senate. There will be a number of Cabinet nominees actually confirmed and voted on by the Senate. Could be as few as three, it could be more. That, of course...

QUESTION: Tomorrow?

FLEISCHER: Yes, sir, tomorrow.

That, of course, is the Senate's business, Senate prerogative, but, obviously, we'll have a number of nominees in place tomorrow after the Senate votes.

With that, happy to take questions.

QUESTION: The meetings with the members are all, that you described, are all going to be at the White House?

FLEISCHER: That's correct.

QUESTION: And just also, the meetings Thursday evening with the Education Committee members, and then Friday morning with the freshmen, those are bipartisan groups?

FLEISCHER: They're going to be going back and forth. But, yes, the freshmen meeting I believe is bipartisan, and the Thursday education meeting is also bipartisan.

QUESTION: Does that mean Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton (OFF- MIKE) FLEISCHER: We'll get out the list as soon as it's done. I don't know...

QUESTION: I'm just wondering is it every freshman.

FLEISCHER: I don't have the list. So the list will be published as soon as we have it.

QUESTION: Ari, one thing logistical. Is there going to be a walk-through on the Hill today, like you do before the conventions kind of thing, where he checks it all out, technical walk-through?

FLEISCHER: No.

QUESTION: He's not going to do one?

FLEISCHER: No.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Clinton legal situation?

FLEISCHER: I understand an announcement will be made at the White House shortly about that. But I can assure you that President- elect Bush is going to look forward, and inaugurations mark the beginning of a new chapter in our nation's history.

And the president's focus and efforts will be forward-looking, not backward-looking.

Yes?

QUESTION: Was the president-elect aware of the negotiations that were going on between President Clinton and the independent counsel, and did he play any role in it?

FLEISCHER: He did not play any role in it. He was of informed about the final result.

QUESTION: When?

QUESTION: Only informed.

FLEISCHER: That is correct. Last night.

QUESTION: By whom?

QUESTION: Last night?

FLEISCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: By whom.

FLEISCHER: He was informed by Andy Card. And Andy received his information from a senior Clinton official.

QUESTION: Is he satisfied with the outcome? FLEISCHER: Again, he is going to be looking forward and not backward. And again, inaugurations mark the beginning of a new chapter in our nation's history.

QUESTION: Two questions about the education initiative. Going through what you listed, it's not clear when the unveiling of the initiative is, Monday or Tuesday.

FLEISCHER: Tuesday.

QUESTION: OK. And the second thing is...

FLEISCHER: Assuming we can figure out what all of the lights on the phones are.

QUESTION: And where the washroom is.

FLEISCHER: That's correct.

QUESTION: The second question is, it's my understanding of his education proposal, as a candidate, that it was to give states the opportunity to experiment and to what -- and that includes the vouchers, I am guessing. Can you say how vouchers figure into that next...

FLEISCHER: Part and parcel of his proposal to come will be a school choice initiative. And the school choice initiative rests on the following idea: If a school is failing its children, the school should be given the help and the ability to do better, to serve its children the way that they get the education that they need.

If, after three years, a school continues to fail, if a school does not educate its children...

ALLEN: All right, for the most part, Ari Fleischer going over, with correspondents there in Washington, the calendar for the next week. It looks to be a busy one. We'll keep listening to Mr. Fleischer's news briefing and bring you any other news that is pertinent.

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