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Special Event

The Bush Presidency: President and Congressional Leaders Meeting in White House

Aired January 24, 2001 - 9:34 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're going to take you to the White House now. Some videotape we're just getting in right now to CNN. This is a meeting between President Bush, and the bipartisan congressional leadership taking place inside the White House. Let's go ahead and listen in to President Bush.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm honored to host the leaders of the Senate and the House. I want to thank you all for coming. I really appreciate it.

This is the sixth meeting I've had with legislators since I've been sworn in. It is a habit I intend to keep because I understand the best way to advance an agenda for the country is to work together. I hope people are now beginning to realize that when I said the executive branch is willing to work with the legislative branch to do what's right for the country, it's not hollow words, it's what I believe we need to do.

Expectations are that we can't come together to get things done. Our mission is to exceed the expectations. So I want to thank you all so much for coming. We're going to have a frank dialogue about a lot of issues, and I'm going to start by reminding that we know the difference between the executive branch and the legislative branch. But I do believe the president and the vice president can play a part, a strong part, in helping advance an American agenda.

So thanks for coming. I'd be glad to answer a few questions.

QUESTION: Sir, I was wondering about the Ashcroft confirmation. There seems to be little question that he's going to be confirmed and, yet, there is this one-week delay. I was wondering, what do think the Democrats are doing?

BUSH: I think they're making sure that when they confirm him, that all questions have been answered.

QUESTION: Sir, what is the common ground on the issues that really divide the two sides, specifically the size of your tax cut and school vouchers. How can you possibly agree on all the issues?

BUSH: We just have to see. That's part of what a dialogue is all about. I think that it's important for me to explain my position. It's important for me to hear others' positions. It's important for me to understand where there is resistance and why, but it all happens with good, honest discussion, a frank discussion about positions.

I look forward to explaining to any member that's concerned about tax relief and why -- I proposed it. And I think the evidence is going to become more and more clear that the economy is not as hopeful as we'd like, which I hope will strengthen my case.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you're talking about frank and honest discussions. Are you going to give on either one of those? Or is there a...

BUSH: Well, I'm certainly not willing to negotiate with myself, particularly in your column.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: But you've also issued legislative proposals prior to the Democrats, to work on negotiations. Does that imply that you want them to just take your positions and pass them?

BUSH: No, it is in recognition of what a presidential campaign is all about. I don't believe Dick and I'd be sitting here had we not taken strong positions on key issues.

And I told the American people, if I had the honor of being the president, I would submit those positions I was campaigning on to the legislative branch, and that's exactly what I've done. So if you look at the education proposals we submitted to the Congress, those are based on what I campaigned on. That's exactly what I told the people I would do, and that's why I'm here to remind the members of the Congress that's what I am going to do.

And I can't wait to have an honest discussion about education, for example, the cornerstone of which is strong accountability. And I'm going to make the case here, and I continue to make the case to anybody who will listen that in order to make sure every child is educated -- I mean, every child -- we must measure -- we must understand whether or not children are learning, because the likelihood of poor children being shuffled through the system is increased if we don't measure.

And I hope we can find people. I hope people will listen, because I feel passionately on the subject. And I thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

KAGAN: All right, a little glimpse there into the beginning of President Bush's day. He's meeting today, this morning, with the bipartisan congressional leadership. They let our cameras -- let reporters in there for a little bit before they started the meeting. Some of the men in that meeting leaders of the Congress: Senator Lott, Speaker Hastert, and for the Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.

President Bush making the point that he's ready to get busy on being a bipartisan leader, something he campaigned on, something he said he did well Texas. And he said there will be a frank discussion this morning on topics that Republicans and Democrats don't see eye to eye, things like school vouchers, tax cuts -- also the confirmation of John Ashcroft as attorney general.

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