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Senator Tom Daschle Holds Press Conference

Aired October 16, 2001 - 14:23   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.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who has stepped to the microphone.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: ... that we haven't been able to move the foreign operations bill.

I just want to go through a couple of the ramifications of inaction on the foreign operations bill. Because of the Republican filibuster, $42 million that would be available to help countries strengthen their borders is not being provided; $175 million to fight infectious diseases, as we fight the war in Afghanistan, is not being provided; $5 billion in direct military assistance to those allies in the region is not being provided; and $255 million to assist Afghan refugees is not being provided.

There are many other provisions in that bill that, of course, are not being provided as a result of the intransigence of some of our colleagues on the other side.

I'm disappointed. We will have another vote on cloture tomorrow. And we will continue to have votes on cloture for whatever length of time it may take to get the job done.

I don't know that there's much that can be said about the matter relating to judiciary appointments, except this: So far this year, Democrats have confirmed twice as many judges for this administration as has been confirmed in the past two administrations -- twice as many as in the first Bush administration; twice as many as in the Clinton administration.

Now, I don't think we ought to be guided by any standard relating to past Congresses. We ought to do all we can to address the issue as successfully as we can. I believe we're doing that. I think there is a very strong likelihood that five more judges will be confirmed this week: one circuit court judge, four district court judges. So that will then make it maybe three times as many judges as were confirmed by this day in the past two administrations.

The point is that I think we're doing all that we can. The point is that, as much as our Republican colleagues have complained, their tactic is counterproductive. They want to bring up energy. We want to bring up energy. You can't bring up the energy bill if we're filibustering appropriations bills that have to be addressed prior to the expiration of the continuing resolution, as you all know.

So we'll continue to file cloture motions and try to keep the comity and the spirit that we've had over the last five weeks in place.

QUESTION: Senator, there are a dozen Senate offices closed today. There's no mail. People are being tested for anthrax. How is the Senate functioning?

DASCHLE: I think the Senate is functioning as we could hope it would. Obviously, these are difficult times, and we are going to have logistic and administrative challenges that we're going to have to face. But I think understand the circumstances, the Senate is functioning quite well. We'll be back in business in all respects within the next several days. But clearly, these are precautions that are required and I think are widely supported.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DASCHLE: Well, I was pleased with the admonition of the White House yesterday with regard to the actions taken in the House of Representatives. It exceeds the budget. It isn't stimulative. It doesn't provide the kind of immediate relief in the economy that we're all looking for. In other words, it doesn't meet any of the criteria that were agreed upon by the bipartisan Budget Committee.

I think we've got to go back to the drawing board. I'm hopeful that we can do that here in the Senate.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, do you have any results yet in terms of the testing of your staff? Have you gotten any conclusions yet?

DASCHLE: All of the conclusions are very encouraging. All of the tests have been negative. There have been no indication that there is a health or a medical problem among any of my staff, and I'm quite confident that will remain the case.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DASCHLE: Yes, it does.

QUESTION: What can you say about tours and mail? How much longer are they going to be suspended, Senator?

DASCHLE: I can't answer how much longer they will be suspended. I think it is important for us to carefully screen the mail and to make very careful decisions about access to the Capitol.

Ultimately my goal is to completely open the Capitol once again and to provide for the regular flow of the mail just as soon as we can accommodate all of the concerns and safety precautions that are going to be put in place. QUESTION: If today it was so important to close the Hart Building partially as a precaution, why wasn't it important to do that yesterday? And do you think that people might have been put at risk by that?

DASCHLE: I am confident that there was really no risk involved. This was simply an effort to determine whether there is even a modicum of anthrax that could be found in one of the vents or one of the air ducts that would give us some indication that there was dissemination.

Keep in mind that even if there is some trace, it wouldn't be of sufficient force or strength to be of health risk to those who are exposed. There has to be a level of strength that we are quite confident would not be met in any of the auxiliary areas that are now being investigated.

QUESTION: What were you told about the kind of the strength or the kind of anthrax that came in the letter? Was it highly either potent or something with small particles that apparently is stronger than other forms of anthrax?

DASCHLE: We were told that it was a very strong form of anthrax, a very potent form of anthrax that clearly was produced by somebody who knew what he or she was doing.

QUESTION: Senator, can it be spread through the air?

DASCHLE: Yes, it can.

QUESTION: Senator, is there any sense among your colleagues that because of the anthrax occurrence, the anthrax scare, if you want to call it that, the threats to security here at the Capitol, is the atmosphere such that Congress should hurry up and pass this bill and then, frankly, get out of town, because it's getting dangerous here? And what do you think about that...

DASCHLE: Well, that assumes that it's less dangerous somewhere else.

(LAUGHTER)

DASCHLE: I don't know that anyone can make that assumption. Leaving town is no longer the panacea.

I think what we have to do is, not run away from these problems, but address them, confront them, try to live our lives, do our work and carry out our responsibilities, and that's what we're trying to do.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DASCHLE: I guess, I'm most amused by the questions relating to schedule on energy, given the current tactics by our Republicans on appropriations. As soon as they tell me when they will halt this counterproductive effort to stop consideration of appropriations bills, I might be able to tell you when we will schedule an energy bill.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, the 11 senators whose offices have been closed today, are any of them, to your knowledge, getting tested? Were they in their offices?

DASCHLE: Testing has been made available on a voluntary basis. If people feel more comfortable having been tested; those tests are going to be made available to anybody who seeks a test. I think it is the feeling of most of those who have been involved in this clean-up effort, in this investigation, that tests are not necessary. But certainly, we would not deny anybody a test.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, have any of the senators asked for tests or not?

DASCHLE: To my knowledge, no senator has asked for a test, but I can't say that with any authority.

BROWN: Senator Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader on anthrax and other issues.

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