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The Bush Presidency: Bush Discusses National Energy Policy

Aired January 29, 2001 - 2:18 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring you some videotape of President Bush meeting with Senator Charles Grassley and Congressman Bill Thomas on an energy policy.

Now, let's listen in to what the comments were.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank the two chairmen from the Senate and the House for coming to visit us.

I appreciate you being here, Mr. Secretary, and, of course, the vice president.

We've had a very -- we've had a discussion of a couple of key issues. One, I was informing the chairmen today we're sending up to the Hill our Immediate Helping Hand proposal, which is help for prescription drugs for seniors. I appreciate them hearing me out as to the rationale to send it up. I was pleased to hear there's some sentiment on the Hill for quick action for Medicare reform, a reform package which would include prescription drugs.

And secondly, of course, we talked about tax relief, tax simplification and tax fairness. They brought a favorable report that members from both parties are beginning to talk positively about tax relief and the positive effects it'll have on our economy, on the lives of every citizen. So I want to thank them for coming.

And be glad to answer a few questions.


QUESTION: Sir, on your energy task force, is it seeking political cover, sir, to promote your campaign to open up the wildlife refuge? And also, given the vice president's past ties to oil, what can you say to consumers that would allay any fears they might have that any deal that you come up with on energy in your national energy policy may be more geared toward oil companies than consumers?

BUSH: Well, Dick Cheney is a person who loves America and cares about the future of the country, just like I do. And he understands what I understand, that if we don't find more energy supplies to meet growing demand in places like California the consumer's going to pay a dear price.

During the course of the campaign we spent a lot of time talking about the need to develop a national energy policy, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

There is a short-term issue of California, and we responded quickly to the governor's request for a two-week extension on some mandatory allocations of energy and gas. It's now for the people of California, the elected officials of California to create a flawed law, and we're encouraged that they're doing.

But there's a long-term issue, as well. And that is, how do we find more energy supplies? How do we encourage conservation, on the one hand, and bring more energy into the marketplace? And a good place to look is going to be ANWR. And I campaigned hard on the notion of having an environmentally sensitive exploration of ANWR, and I think we can do so.

QUESTION: On your faith-based initiative, could you address the concerns that some people have that this is an erosion of church and state?

BUSH: Right. I appreciate that question, because I, in the state of Texas, had heard a lot of discussion about a faith-based initiative eroding the important bridge between church and state. And I am convinced that our plan is constitutional, because we will not fund a church or synagogue or mosque or any religion, but instead we'll be funding programs that affect people in a positive way.

The charitable choice provision that has been debated in the welfare reform package fully explored the constitutional questions involved with funding people and/or faith-based programs. And I am confident that our program not only is constitutional, but more importantly our program is going to change America for the better; that we're going to help people; that we're going to help people help themselves and we're going to rally the great compassion of America.

And I look forward to implementing this program. I look forward to working with members of Congress to put the required package together.

QUESTION: How do you respond to the members of Congress who say they would rather see a universal, broad-based approach to Medicare reform, rather than your drug plan first then a broader approach later?

BUSH: Well, if, in fact, what they're saying is that they plan on expediting a Medicare reform that will include prescription drugs for all seniors, then all of a sudden I begin to say, "Well, gosh that may make sense that you look at our proposal the way you do." If they're going to drag their feet, if the members of the Congress on both sides of the aisle don't feel the same urgency that I feel and these two chairmen feel on Medicare reform, then I feel it's very important for us to have Immediate Helping Hand. There are a lot of seniors who need help when it comes to prescription drugs.

QUESTION: Why did you decide not to challenge the Clinton pardon?

BUSH: Oh, on Marc Rich? First of all, I didn't agree with the decision. I would not have made that decision myself. But the ability for a president to make decisions on pardons is inviolate, as far as I'm concerned. It's an important part of the office. I am mindful not only observing executive powers for myself but for predecessors as well, and that's why I made the decision.

QUESTION: Are you bothered by the appearance of that?

BUSH: I am troubled by the decision the president made. I would not have made that decision. I would not have made that decision. But nevertheless he was the president. He had the right to do so to make that decision and he did. And I'm going to protect that privilege, not only for me but for future presidents as well.

ALLEN: President Bush in the Oval Office today taking a few questions during a meeting formulating a national energy policy, just then saying he felt President -- former President Clinton made a mistake by giving a pardon to Marc Rich. You've probably heard that was a controversial pardon, since he'd been a donor to the Clintons.

Mr. Bush also pledging support to what he announced today for his support of faith-based groups, he wants to give federal money to these groups. He believes it's a constitutional plan because, as you heard him say, his plan would not be giving federal dollars directly to a certain church or a certain mosque, but to community programs that these organizations run.



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