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CNN Today

President Urges Cabinet Members to Push His Legislative Agenda

Aired January 31, 2001 - 2:30 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: CNN's Kelly Wallace, our White House correspondent, is standing by on the White House lawn to talk to us more about Mr. Bush's first Cabinet meeting.

What are they going to be doing today?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, aides -- we asked that question. Aides say pretty much the president wanted to impress upon his Cabinet the importance of working to enact his legislative priorities. And we heard him talk about some of them. That includes his tax cut package, education reform, getting prescription drug coverage to low-income seniors, reforming Social Security.

So, the president is expected to basically convey to his Cabinet leaders the importance of working with the Congress and doing their part to try and turn these legislative priorities into law and into accomplishment. As you heard, though, a big focus continues to be in Washington over the president's proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut package.

You heard one reporter ask the president if he would be willing, as some Republicans think is a better way to go, which is to break it up into pieces as opposed to trying passing one full tax cut package at once. The president saying that he has talked to the House speaker and others on the House side where tax legislation begins and he is willing to listen. If leaders in the Congress believe that is the best way to get the tax package in place to stimulate the economy as soon as possible, then the president said he is willing to listen. So again, that is a big issue today.

You also heard, of course, though, questions surrounding the verdict today regarding the bombing of Pan Am 103 back in 1988. The president continuing to say that it is the policy of this government that the Libyans should be held accountable and that they should pay compensation to the victim's families. The president was asked if the Libyans pretty much say that they hold no responsibility for that bombing; as for that, the president was asked what should the U.S. government do next? The president said we'll develop a plan -- Joie.

CHEN: And Kelly, the president also today continuing to talk about his plans for faith-based initiatives and charity work throughout the country. WALLACE: Absolutely. As you noted earlier, the president meeting with Catholic Charities today. Basically, doing a number of events on each day to put forth this initiative, which has stirred up some controversy. The president wanting to allow religious groups to compete with secular groups for government funds to go ahead and provide social services to the needy.

Each day we've see the president doing an event talking about the importance of this, trying to address, also, the constitutional questions. Some critics saying this will blur the separation between church and state. The president believing that faith-based initiatives have a role to play and that they would not cross any constitutional lines -- Joie.

CHEN: Cabinet at work at the White House, as is Kelly Wallace. Thanks very much, Kelly.

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