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President Bush Gives Press Conference

Aired July 26, 2001 - 11:42   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are leading up to some videotape we're getting from the White House. President Bush is in the Oval Office today, making comments, we understand, on China and also on the Bill of Rights.

Let's go ahead and listen in to the president.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ...I would hope that part of it's because of the pressure our government's put on China.

I spoke directly to Jiang Zemin on this very subject, about the humane treatment of U.S. citizens and/or legal residents. And perhaps China is beginning to realize that as she begins to deal with Western nations she's going to have to make better decisions on human rights.

QUESTION: Are you not giving up on Patients' Bill of Rights being voted on before the August recess? And do you feel that your influence, especially with Republicans in the House, is diminished from what it was?

BUSH: I think we've had a pretty good six months, when you think about it. I've signed a lot of legislation. Today, for example, I signed the legislation naming the education savings accounts after Paul Coverdell. That's a piece of legislation that had languished in the past, it's now law. I signed tax cuts. I signed some regulatory relief. I am very pleased with the cooperative spirit in the Congress.

And I do believe that we can get a good Patients' Bill of Rights. I think the members of Congress have taken me seriously when I said I want a bill, but there are some things that are unacceptable to me. And the most unacceptable thing to me is that there be a piece of legislation that encourages lawsuits and discourages American citizens from being able to afford health insurance. I am deeply worried about any legislation that'll cause people to have less health insurance. I refuse to accept that legislation.

Now, having said that, I've been in some serious discussions today. We're trying to find some common ground on getting a bill that I can sign, and I believe we're making progress. QUESTION: Mr. President, Iraq tried to knock down a U-2 plane today. Do you fear that they're enhanced their ability to knock down allied planes, and what can you do about it?

BUSH: Well, we're going to keep the pressure on Iraq. The no- fly zone strategy is still in place. Plus, I'm analyzing the data from the incident you talked about. I look forward to finding out all the facts.

But there's no question that Saddam Hussein is still a menace and a problem. And the United States and our allies must put the pressure on him. That's why I brought up to Mr. Putin in Genoa the need for us to work in concert at the United Nations to make sure that we have a sanction policy that will work.

QUESTION: Senator Lieberman mentioned today there's some outright opposition to faith-based and he thought that could be eased, and some other people said that could be eased if there's some changes in the language on discrimination. Is that something that you would consider doing to get faith-based through?

BUSH: Well, we're going to work with the Senate to get a good bill out. There are some other concerns that he brought up, and I told him we'd be willing to work with it, without compromising on principle. He understood that. He and I share the same principle about the need to rally faith-based organizations in our community.

And one of the principles is we should never undermine the civil rights laws of the United States. And I believe it's very important that the whole spirit and law of the civil rights legislation be intact.

QUESTION: Mr. President, on the immigration proposal that you have raised, is there some reason that only Mexican workers should be considered? What about those from other countries?

BUSH: Well, we'll consider all folks here. Let me make this very clear to people, that there was a, you know, a word was creeping in the vernacular about this issue called amnesty. I oppose blanket amnesty. The American people need to know that.

I do believe, though, that when we find willing employer and willing employee we ought to match the two, we ought to make it easier for people who want to employ somebody, who are looking for workers to be able to hire people who want to work. And I know we can do so in a humane way that treats people with respect.

Obviously, the Mexican issue is at the forefront because we're preparing for my first state visit with my friend Vicente Fox. But I'm open minded. I'll listen to all proposals that people have in mind.

Let me make another point on Mexico. It is wrong for the Congress to discriminate against Mexican trucks. And I urge the Senate to reject an amendment to the transportation bill that would clearly discriminate against Mexican truckers. Our Mexican counterparts and friends need to be treated just like the Canadians are treated. We ought to accept the spirit of NAFTA.

And so whether it be people or trucks or businesses, I solidly reject discrimination against people who are here of all origins, particularly Mexico.

And the reason why Mexico is on the front burner as far as the immigration issue, of course, is because of the initiative that Vicente Fox and I outlined, an initiative that encouraged discussions headed up by Colin Powell and John Ashcroft and their counterparts -- and, by the way, an initiative that is making good progress on making sure relations with our neighbor to the south are strong and cohesive and there's a strategy that works and respectful. And we're making good progress, and the American people ought to be proud of that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: New furnishings.

BUSH: Yes, there are. Thank you for noticing. The couches, Mrs. Bush deserves a lot of credit. No, the rug is temporary. The rug will have the -- we're in the process of weaving a new rug. Each president, as you probably know since you've been around here some -- well, a long time -- each president designs his own rug. I'm designing mine, and it's now being woven and will be here in about three months. And I look forward to...

QUESTION: The Alamo on the wall is not an indication of how you feel in the White House right now.

BUSH: Oh, I feel great. Listen, I think we've had one of the most constructive first six months of any presidency, and we're making great progress on a lot of issues.

No, I've always -- you know, a dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it, but dealing with Congress is a matter of give and take. The president doesn't get everything he wants, the Congress doesn't get everything they want, but we're finding good common ground.

And I also want to remind you all we're making great progress when it comes to fiscal sanity in the budget. I appreciate so very much the supplemental they've got passed. I signed it in Kosovo. It was a supplemental that came out clean. And I thank the leadership in the Senate, particularly Senator Byrd, as well as those in the House, Congressman Young, for moving a clean supplemental. That was unheard of in recent history.

There's going to be some struggles over the budget, no question about it, as appropriators perhaps try to bust the budget, but they're going to find somebody who's going to hang tough on the budget.

And I want to remind people that the reason some are struggling to find money to spend is because the economy has turned down. That's why. The budget projections are less than anticipated because of a slowdown in the economy. And by cutting taxes, we did the right thing to reinvigorate the economy.

And you know who knows that best? The American people.

Thank you for coming.

New curtains, too.

KAGAN: We've been listening to President Bush as he makes some comments from the Oval Office, comments on everything from interior decorating. I guess they're getting some new furniture and new rugs in the Oval Office.

On a more serious note, the president is answering a lot questions dealing with his power to persuade right now on Capitol Hill.

Let's bring in our Major Garrett, our White House correspondent.

Major, an article in today's "Washington Post" is titled "Bush Lacks the Ability to Force Action on Hill," meaning the president is not having as much power as he did at the beginning of his administration. If nothing else, this is posing a lot of questions toward the president today.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Daryn. The White House interpretation of its ability to deal with the Hill is somewhat mixed. It's got its tax cut through.

The education reform issue the president put number two on his domestic list of priorities has been passed by the House and Senate. They are working out the details now.

There is an intense effort by the president to move a Patients' Bill of Rights -- not an issue that was high on his priority list, nor one that he campaigned one, but one he has decided is of very great concern to many Americans, a traditionally Democratic issue. He would like to resolve that issue and prove that he can work with Congress in a bipartisan way.

Free trade is also a big issue. It's moving through Congress.

So the president and the White House really believe they have made some strides, but every president, as Mr. Bush just indicated, at times is frustrated with Congress. Congress is a slow-moving institution. It was designed that way. Sometimes presidents would like it to move more rapidly and accept more of its original proposals. That's not the way our system works.

Overall, the White House feels very good that the president has number one, as he likes to say, changed the tone here in Washington; made some progress on education reform; passed that tax cut; and sees, at least within reach, maybe, a compromise on a Patients' Bill of Rights and a faith-based initiative. So overall, the White House is feeling better than worse about its ability to deal with Congress, at least so far. KAGAN: As the president got his little joke in there: A dictatorship would be easier. That is would. Not as a good a place to live, however.

Major Garrett, at the White House, thank you.



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