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Special Event

President Bush Holds First Cabinet Meeting

Aired January 31, 2001 - 2:25 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Standing by now to go to Washington and to the White House. We're expecting any moment now for President Bush to begin his first Cabinet meeting, although there will be a couple of empty seats at the table.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is standing by and, -- but, we want to go immediately into the Cabinet room where, as you see, these pictures. These are live picture from the Cabinet room. So, if they don't look very prim and proper and setup that is because you're looking at live picture of the Cabinet room.

You see the secretary of state, Mr. Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, on either side of President Bush. Let's listen to him talk.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a variety of topics today. I'm going to remind all of us that it's an honor to serve the country. I expect only one standard... We're going to discuss a variety of topics today. I'm going to remind all of us it's an honor to serve the country. I expect only one standard, and that's the highest of ethical standards.

We're putting together a great team to serve America. That's what we're here for.

I am going to talk a little bit about reminding people that a dollar spent is somebody's money, and that we expect there to be lean budgets, good stewards of the people's money.

We'll hear from some of the Cabinet officers about what may be going on. I suspect the energy secretary may want to brief us. Maybe the secretary of treasury will give us a little update on what's going on the economy and tax relief.

But I want to assure Americans that they're going to be as proud of this Cabinet as I am. This is a wonderful group of men and women who have agreed to serve their country, for which I am grateful.

Be glad to answer a few questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you beginning to think that Congress might act more quickly on your tax cuts if you break it up into pieces and seek the across-the-board tax cut first?

BUSH: I've told the speaker and anybody else who will listen on the House side, where the legislation must begin, that we're interested in the results. And if that's what it takes to get the bill through, we'll be willing to listen.

This is an administration that's mindful of the difference between the legislative branch and the executive branch. We will make suggestions if asked. If the speaker and Chairman Thomas and others believe that the best way to get our plan in place that will help bolster the economy that we believe needs bolstering, we'll listen and work with them.

QUESTION: Mr. President, does the verdict in the Pan Am bombing case, should it leave any doubt that Libya was behind the bombing of Pan Am 103 as an act of state?

BUSH: This was a high official. We made it very clear that this administration is going to hold the Libyans accountable. We expect them to pay reparations. The secretary of state is in complete agreement.

QUESTION: If they pay reparations and...

BUSH: Well, let's see if they do. They should.

QUESTION: The government of Tripoli just announced, as we were coming in here, that they will accept no responsibility for what happened. What happens now from the U.S. side?

BUSH: We'll develop a plan.

STAFF: Lights. Thank you all very much.

QUESTION: Welcome back, Mr. Powell.

CHEN: All right, turning off the lights to give the Cabinet members privacy as they begin their first meeting as the Cabinet of President George W. Bush. We do note that there are a couple of seats empty at the table today. You didn't see quite all of that in the picture that we were able to show you. But, of course, Mr. Bush's nominee for attorney general, John Ashcroft, has not been seated.

As well the health and human services secretary, Tommy Thompson. He has been approved, but he is still operating as the governor of Wisconsin, and therefore is not able to come to the Cabinet meeting quite yet.

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