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Trent Lott Discusses Campaign Finance Reform in Weekly Media Brief

Aired March 19, 2001 - 11:33 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: All right, now live to Capitol Hill. The appearance of the Senator majority leader, Trent Lott. Let's go ahead and listen in to what the senator has to say about campaign finance reform.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, thank you all for joining me this week. I appreciate the fact that you are here for the official acknowledgement that Ole Miss defeated Notre Dame and now is in the Sweet 16. And I want to say how proud I am of them, and that my chief of staff, Dave Hoppe, a Notre Dame graduate, will do an official Hotty Totty cheer at the Republican leadership meeting this afternoon. And so, I had promised I would wear a Notre Dame tie, if it went the other way, so I can't wait to hear it.

QUESTION: Watch out for Maryland, though.

LOTT: Yes, I know it. I hope we don't have to deal with that.

Well, let me just address two or three issues, and then I'll be glad to respond to your questions.

Over this past weekend, I had an opportunity to read Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address. It was a beautiful statement that brought the country together after a very hotly contested race, finally settled weeks later than the Election Day between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, after 36 ballots in the House of Representatives across the hall in the office where I sit.

In his inaugural address, one of the things he said was that basically government should not take from the mouth of labor the bread that they have earned. Pretty profound and correct then, and it applies to today. That's why we need an across-the-board income-tax rate cut for all individuals that are working and paying taxes.

So I think that that's an appropriate way to begin this conference today, is to say that we should allow labor to keep more of the money that they actually earn.

And there are a lot of different ideas being offered now in this area, on both sides of the aisle. And I think that's appropriate, too, because presidents propose and Congress disposes. And we will go before the Finance Committee, and we'll have a discussion, and we'll have some votes, I'm sure, on amendments. We'll come to the floor, and then we'll pass tax relief for working Americans. That's the way it should be.

There have been suggestions that, by the president, by the way, that his proposal be retroactive, and then there are some ideas now being floated that we take steps to have more of the tax rate cuts apply quicker. And I think we ought to consider those.

So all of that will go forward, and it will actually begin to take shape when we pass the budget resolution the first week in April.

Two other issues I want to comment on. One is -- I guess it will be an announcement -- but a decision by the administration not to use the American Bar Association at any point in a formal role in the movement of recommendations to be appointed to the federal judiciary. And I think that's as it should be.

They can make suggestions or comments on nominees just like any other group, whether it's the Federalist Society or some other group that may be interested in the federal judiciary. But I don't think any special interest group should be directly involved in the screening of judicial nominees.

There's a process in the administration, and we have a committee called the Judiciary Committee that will work on those. And so I am pleased that the ABA will not have any kind of formal role like they've had in the past.

We also this week, of course, will begin debate this afternoon on campaign finance reform. We will have, I'm sure, a lot of discussion on a number of amendments, and votes. And that's as it should be.

I met several times and talked other times on the telephone with Senator McCain, to make sure we had a process that was fair to all sides. And basically what he agreed and I agreed was that we'd open the discussion, and amendments would be offered, and votes will occur, basically, every three hours. Well, it could be more than three hours. But after three hours of debate, there may be some intervening actions. But we'll be having votes throughout this week and next week. And I hope we can come up with a bill that will have broad support.

The president has outlined his principles that he will be considering and making a final decision on how he acts on this issue.

But, clearly, there are some things we can do to improve the campaign finance laws that were first last passed, or last passed, in 1974. A lot has happened since then.

So there will be a lot of amendments offered, and I'm looking forward to the debate.

QUESTION: What are the chances of McCain-Feingold passing as is?

KAGAN: We were listening to the comments there from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. This sounds like his weekly media brief, talking about a number of issues and then touching on campaign finance reform there. The senator, of course, later today is one to take that up in debate forum, the McCain-Feingold bill. Senator Lott there saying that he says some kind of reform is needed. It does not sound like he is in favor of the full fledge reform that McCain -- Senators McCain and Feingold are pushing.

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