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Aired July 31, 2001 - 15:10   ET

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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're going to take you to the Oval Office, where President Bush is touting his commitment to energy conservation. He is signing an executive order requiring federal agencies to buy more energy-efficient appliances, and we are expecting him to take questions from reporters, so let's listen in.

QUESTION: The Patients' Bill of Rights now (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Congressman Norwood came into my office and he said, "Mr. President, would you like to talk about the possibility of reaching an agreement on a patients' bill of rights?"

I said, "You bet." After all, in a speech I gave early in my administration I not only outlined the principles of a bill that would be unacceptable, I more importantly said I would like to see a piece of legislation that protects consumers and doesn't reward lawyers. And so he brought some ideas right here in the Oval Office. He felt like he needed to go back and discuss them with some of the bill sponsors, senators and other members of the House of Representatives.

I'm hopeful that he will shake the hand of an accommodation they I put out for him. I believe there's room for compromise and I'm more than willing to try to do so with him. We don't have a specific deal yet, David, to answer your question, but we're making good progress.

QUESTION: What are you offering (OFF-MIKE)?

BUSH: I'm offering to sign a bill and not veto it. And that's pretty powerful incentive for someone to try to come up with an agreement. I will not sign a bill that I think will end up tossing people out of health insurance. And if we have too much litigation, if we encourage lawsuits, costly lawsuits, it could drive up the health care for people. It will drive people off the health care roles and it will make it very difficult for small business people to afford health care, and I'm deeply concerned about that.

QUESTION: Mr. President, today you received the election reforms report from President Carter and President Ford. If those reforms had been in place already for the last election, do you think you'd be sitting in this room today?

BUSH: It would have been a landslide, and...

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Who knows? But I do appreciate the report. I think as a -- let me finish. I am most appreciative that President Carter himself delivered the report to me. Former Congressman Michael, on behalf of President Ford, was here. I walked right out of the Oval Office having gotten briefed and stood in front of the American people and said, "This is a very good report."

And there's a lot of positive things in it, including making sure that America's networks don't prejudge elections by calling them too early. And there's a lot of other reforms in there that I make sense, and I urge Congress to take a good, close look at them.

I think it's very important to note that one of the principles involved in the Carter/Ford report was that the elections really are local. That the federal government should enable and help local jurisdictions develop practices that make sure every vote matters, practices that make sure that our voting rolls and registers are up to date. That, you know, that people aren't registered three or four times across the state. That people who are eligible to vote are the ones that should be voting. But I was impressed by the report. I thought it had a lot of very serious recommendations, and I hope Congress takes it seriously.

Yes, Steve? You're not Steve.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... fast track, you're going to have to delay actions still in September. Why is it going to be so hard to get the fast track?

BUSH: Some people in America don't believe in free trade. Some folks believe that a protectionist policy would be best for our country's economy and the workers. I strongly disagree. I think trade offers promise for people who want to find work. Trade's important to enhance the growth of the small businesses. Trade's important in our own hemisphere. Trade's been important to make sure we got good relations with Mexico. After all, we want our neighbors to do well. It's a neighborly way to think. And if Mexico and Canada do well, America will do well as well.

So trade's important. Trade's an important -- it's also an important part of making sure the world is more free. But there are some who resist trade because they don't see its benefits, and my job and the job of those of us who strongly see the benefits and know the benefits of free trade will continue to work hard until we get a piece of legislation that enables the president of the United States to make sure that America is involved in the world. That we don't miss out on opportunities for the working people of America to find jobs, that we don't miss out on the opportunities for our farmers and ranchers to find markets to feed people.

Now, we're the best in the world at growing crops and we need to make sure that our farmers and ranchers have the capacity to sell their product in overseas markets. It's the benefit of our economy. It's the benefit to the people who take risk in America. I believe we'll get a trade promotion authority bill out. Whether or not we get it done before August is, obviously, you know, up in the air. But I believe when it's all said and done, the Congress will realize the benefits of free trade for the people of America.

PHILLIPS: That tape just in to CNN. President George W. Bush from the Oval Office, commenting on trade policy, election reform report from Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Also talking about the Patients' Bill of Rights, and we also want to remind you that Congressman Charles Norwood from Georgia, sponsor of the Patients' Bill of Rights, will be on "INSIDE POLITICS" at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time with Judy Woodruff.

Right there in the Oval Office, the president was signing an executive order requiring federal agencies to buy more energy- efficient appliances, touting his commitment to energy conservation. That's the latest from the White House. Here in Atlanta, I'm Kyra Phillips.

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