THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to move across town to the White House. We're in the Cabinet room now with the president of the United States, who is meeting with eight United States senators, including Senator Jeffords, and the president is speaking.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... that will be debated soon, I believe...
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This afternoon.
BUSH: ... this afternoon on the floor of the United States Senate.
I, of course, I'm anxious to talk to the chairman of the Education Committee, Senator Kennedy, about getting the bill done. There's been a lot of discussion about the bill. There's a lot of agreements that have been made. There's been a lot of hard work from a lot of people around this table. And my only hope is is that we don't try to add to or subtract from the bill after agreements have been made.
But I look forward to hearing from the members about how best to get this bill complete. I think we have an opportunity -- I know we have an opportunity to show the American people that although the structure of the Senate may have been altered somewhat, that we still can get things done in a way that's positive for America.
So I welcome the members here.
Secondly, I am deeply concerned, as are members of the Senate around this table, about the situation in the U.S. steel industry. We're concerned about unfair trade practices that may be affecting the economics of the steel industry. And therefore call upon the International Trade Commission, under Section 201, to have a full investigation of the industry, the imports coming into the United States, to make sure that our industry is not being affected by unfair trade practices.
Be glad to answer a few questions, and then we look forward to discussion.
QUESTION: Mr. President, Senator Kennedy is the chairman of this committee because Senator Jeffords is leaving the party, saying that he could no longer -- because of the conservative bent of the party, could no longer work as well with you and other...
BUSH: Why do you want to make the guy feel bad in front of TV cameras?
BUSH: Probably too much, as far as Mr. Jeffords is concerned.
BUSH: Go ahead. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: What does that say about your ability to oversee a party that supposedly is supposed to have a broad tent, and specifically your ability to govern as you promised, as a bipartisan leader? BUSH: Well, that's what this meeting is all about. There's going to be an opportunity for us to work on a variety of issues. We did so on the tax relief package. That package got a pretty good Democrat vote out of the Senate and a good Democrat vote out of the House.
BUSH: We'll do so on the education plan. There's a patients' bill of rights that's working its way through the Senate. I'm confident we'll have a series of discussions on that.
As a matter of fact, there's one author of one of the bills here, and there's two authors of a secondary bill -- a second bill here.
And as you know, we've been working with Senator Frist and Senator Jeffords on that alternative to try to make it conform to some principles that I discussed. There's going to be a lot of give-and- take on key issues. And I think when people see the fine print of the education bill they'll find there's been a lot of give-and-take in order to get a good bill out that improves public education. So I'm confident we'll be able to work together.
QUESTION: Mr. President, is this going to anger European allies going into the summit?
BUSH: I certainly hope it doesn't anger European allies. As you know, I told the world that we're going to have an active internationalist foreign policy with U.S. interests at its heart. And it's in our nation's interest to make sure that if there are unfair trade practices in the steel industry we address them in a very aggressive way, which this administration will do.
Nice seeing your brother the other day.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. He was happy to see you.
BUSH: Speaks highly of you still.
QUESTION: Sir, do you have any fears that the changeover in the Senate will threaten the education reforms? Is that the reason for calling this meeting?
BUSH: The reason for calling this meeting is because I wanted to touch base with the people that are making the bill move to let them know how much I appreciate the hard work that's gone into the bill; ask what we can do to help make it move as quickly as possible, so that we can sign a bill in time for public districts around the United States to plan for next fall. And one reason why the secretary of education is here; he's going to be in charge of implementing the new bill. And that's why they're here.
QUESTION: There's more than a hundred amendments still to be dealt with, sir. Is that something you would like to ask the members here to streamline? Is there some way to make the process move a little faster?
BUSH: Well, that's going to be up to the chairman, and I'm sure he'll have a few good ideas. He's been around here a lot longer than I have, and he'll have good ideas on how to move the bill as quickly as possible. My only request is that we adhere to the spirit of our negotiations as best as possible.
I know the senator is a man of his word. Our administration is as well. I'm confident we can get something done in a positive way.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) expecting to accomplish by sending CIA Director Tenet to the Middle East? And what do you feel about the recent events?
BUSH: Well, we believe strongly we need to stop the cycle of violence before anything can happen. And I've been on the phone, and the secretary of state has been on the phone, urging all parties involved to adhere to the cease-fire. We believe enough progress has been made on the cease-fire that it is time to send George Tenet to the Middle East to start serious discussions at the security level about how to make sure the cease-fire continues.
And we're very hopeful that this step will continue to -- will be a part of building confidence in the region, confidence between skeptical leaders. And George is going to be on a very important mission, and we're all hopeful in the United States that the mission begins to achieve the objective.
Once the violence has ceased, once there's a cease-fire in place, once there is strong security arrangements back in place, then we can start having political discussions. The Mitchell report was a very good report. And I called former Senator Mitchell to thank him for his contributions. Our government and our nation supports the Mitchell report. The Mitchell report clearly says step one is to stop the violence. And that's where our efforts are from our government. We are doing everything we can to make it clear to all parties that we will work as hard as we can to stop the violence.
Thank you all very much.
WATERS: The president at the White House today. You see Senator James Jeffords there in the room. Other key senators were Edward Kennedy, you saw him sitting just to the left of the president; Bill Frist from Tennessee; Dodd of Connecticut; Lieberman; Bayh; Gregg; Hutchison; Susan Collins of Maine: all folks, as the president said, who are the keys to pushing through the education bill, which has bipartisan support in the House. It was already passed there.
There's still some way to go in the Senate. The president said the purpose of his meeting at the White House today with those senators was to touch base with the people who make the bill move. We have John King at the White House. There is more than just education, though, on the table for the president here.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: More than just education, Lou, and you heard a bit of nervous laughter there as the president took his first look at essentially the new world order in the United States Senate. He called Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts the chairman of the Education Committee. Well, not quite yet. Until the Senate reorganizes officially, Senator Jim Jeffords is still the chairman of that committee.
So, the procedural steps still have not been taken, but Mr. Bush already looking to the future, already looking to a Senate controlled by the Democrat. He mentioned that education bill, around the table with him in the Cabinet room, the key voices in the education debate. But let's remember why Jim Jeffords decided to bolt the GOP and become an independent. He said that he did not think there was enough money in that education bill...
WATERS: Excuse me, John. Senator Lott is now speaking over at the Capitol. We'll get back to you in just a second.
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