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CNN Today

Bush Reaches Out to Congressional Leaders

Aired January 24, 2001 - 1:15 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush, today, held his first White House meeting with Democratic leaders of Congress. His message: It's time to get things done. The Democratic response: We'll see.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace now with the prospects for real bipartisanship in the new administration, will it happen -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, that is the big question. For now, the president is trying to reach out. He told lawmakers this morning that his pledges to work with them were not, quote, "hollow words." And he continues to tout his number-one priority right now, that is education reform.

In fact, any minute from now, Mr. Bush is due to swear in the man who will help him convince lawmakers to push his education agenda. That is the new education secretary, Rod Paige.

But, earlier on this day, Mr. Bush had Democratic and Republican congressional leaders at the White House for coffee. Mr. Bush said he is going to make a habit out of meeting with law makers. And Democrats also said things were off to good start. But, of course, the challenges lie ahead, and those are negotiating differences, such as Democratic objections to Mr. Bush's plan, which would allow federal tax dollars to go to low-income parents to be used for private schools.

Mr. Bush told reporters he is sticking by his plan, which also includes testing of students to make sure they are getting the education they deserve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must understand whether or not children are learning because the likelihood of poor children be shuffled through the system is increased if we don't measure.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, Democrats, for their part, say they can find agreement on testing, but they say the real contentious issue will be what the Bush team calls school choice, and what Democrats call vouchers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Vouchers is going to be a lot tougher. A lot of us believe that vouchers bleed money out of the public school system. We want to deal with failing schools, but we don't think vouchers is the best way to do that. I think we can get an agreement on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: OK, Lou, I think we are going to go to you. I believe President Bush is about to speak at the Department of Education.

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