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America Recovers: House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt Gives Press Conference

Aired November 7, 2001 - 10:38   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's move to Capitol Hill and check with Jonathan Karl. They were talking money late yesterday and the economic stimulus package, a couple Congressional leaders down at the White House, and again, the president is saying not too fast on too much spending

What's Congress saying, Jonathan?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're not moving at Mach speed here on Capitol Hill. Last night, the president had that meeting with congressional leaders. The president made it very clear he will veto anything in terms of next year's budget or the stimulus package that adds further spending to what he's already agreed to with congressional leaders.

Just a short while ago, the Republican Senate leader, Trent Lott, said he absolutely agrees with that and that he will fight the Democratic version of a stimulus package which would include more spending.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (D-MS), MINORITY LEADER: I'm very disturbed about the way that Sen. Daschle and Sen. Baucus are proceeding on the bill intended to try to stimulate the economy. It has continued to grow, and it is growing on the spending side. Much on that spending will do nothing to stimulate growth and job securities; as a matter of fact, some of it would be counterstimulative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: The point that Lott and the president are making is that Congress has already spent a lot of money since September 11. Look at this: Already the Congress has agreed to $20 billion in disaster relief spending for New York City, another $20 for emergency spending elsewhere, a $15 billion bailout for the airline industry, and an unlimited amount of money that will come out of a victims' compensation fund for the victims of September 11.

In addition to that, there are any number of proposals for additional spending. There are the proposals for economic stimulus coming from Democrats and Republicans, of between $60 billion and $100 billion; New York wants another $54 billion in spending; Republicans in the House are talking about another $20 billion in additional spending for defense; both sides are talking about about $3 billion to fight bioterrorism; another $2 billion for agriculture is being talked about; and they are also talking about a bailout for the insurance industry, to we help the insurance industry insurance itself against possible future terrorist attacks -- that number is unspecified.

And today, we're also expecting the Postal Service to come up here and ask for money as well, telling the problems they've faced because of the anthrax problem.

Democrats are responding by saying the problem isn't the spending that's going on; the problem is that big tax cut that Republicans passed earlier this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Let me tell you where the real pork wept out the door: in the big tax cut, $1.3 trillion, $1.6 trillion -- and if you add all the pieces to it, it's near $2 trillion. That's where the pork went out the door, and my, how we need that money now. We don't it. We need that money now to increase our supplies of vaccines and antibiotics, to be able to put more people at work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: So you're seeing a major showdown in the works between the president and the Congress over how much money to spend.

Meanwhile, now we have a press conference from Richard Gephardt. We'll go to that now and hear what Gephardt has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: ... not really put together in a bipartisan way. And, again, I wish we could settle all three of these matters before Thanksgiving. I think it's important to work together in a bipartisan way to try to find common answers to obvious problems, and I hope that rather than the kind of meeting we had yesterday, we could have meetings where while there's disagreement, we try to work our way through the disagreement and find consensus.

QUESTION: Mr. Leader, the speaker told us just a moment ago that if the need arises for more emergency funds, he'll call Congress back into session. The White House says that they've only committed $3 billion or so of that $40 billion. They say they're not sure how it's all going to fall out, where the needs are going to lie. How do you respond to that?

GEPHARDT: Well, I think the $40 billion has been spoken for. I think it will all go out very soon. It's all been spoken for, I can tell you that. And if you read the newspapers, listen to the television and radio, you hear people like Tommy Thompson today again asking for money for smallpox vaccine.

He thinks it'll cost almost $2 billion to quicken the production of smallpox vaccine.

All we're saying and all the appropriators are saying is, you don't need to spend this additional money, but it probably will be four months before we can actually enact new legislation. Why not put it in place?

The president has the ability to call it an emergency or not. So it is entirely in his court as to whether or not this money would be spent rather than trying to rely on calling the Congress and going through a big legislative wrangle over what needs to be done. We could do it now. We could put it in place. If the president decides he doesn't need the money, it's not going to be spent, then he doesn't need to spend it.

Tom Ridge, yesterday at the meeting, said he was, you know, just trying to right now find out what...

KARL: Congressman Gephardt, the Democratic leader in the House, saying that if the president doesn't want more emergency spending right now, as he says he does -- and he says he will veto additional emergency spending -- that Congress should go ahead and appropriate it anyway, so that if the president needs money, whether it be for the war effort in Afghanistan or for the fight against terrorism here at home, the money will be available for him. This is turning into a major showdown. Again, Democrats and some of the Republicans that are in charge of the money, that hold the purse strings here -- the appropriations chairmen -- say they need to appropriate more money to deal with the threat against terrorism here at home.

So Congressman Gephardt is preparing for a showdown with the president on that issue.

HEMMER: Clearly, not the last work. We know that, Jonathan. We have seen it before.

Jonathan, thank you.

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