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Congress Members Speak After White House Breakfast

Aired October 2, 2002 - 08:03   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And we need to go straight back to Washington, where Speaker of the House Hastert is addressing reporters about what happened inside the White House when they had breakfast with the president.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: ... There's no other pieces of legislation that we'd like to finish. We have the Sierra issue that we need to resolve, at what level and time. And we're going to work hard to resolve those and get our members home so they can campaign as quick as possible.

SEN. THOMAS DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think that we've got a lot of work to do in the remaining few weeks before the election. But it is our hope that we can complete successfully homeland security, the Iraqi resolution. In the Senate we still have to deal with the budget enforcement regulation, the rule that expired on October 1. There are a number of conference reports, especially terrorism insurance, that we feel very strongly needs to be addressed.

So the plate is still full and there's a lot of work to be done. And we, again, indicated to the president that we fully intend to work until we get that work done, and hopefully it'll be sooner rather than later.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, did you emerge from this meeting with agreement on the resolution language?

DASCHLE: We didn't negotiate resolution language. That's still a matter that will continue to be the source of a good deal of discussion over the coming hours. I know that Senator Levin and Senator Lugar and Senator Biden and a number of other senators have ideas that they have continued to put forth and we'll continue to work to see whether we can find some either procedural way with which to address the differences or come together on a resolution.

I indicated this morning that it isn't where you start, it's where you end. And it is still my hope and my expectation, really, that at the end of the day we're going to have a broad, a broad level of support on both sides of the aisle for a resolution that indicates our support for the United Nations effort and our support for the administration's effort in dealing with Iraq.

QUESTION: Senator, I wonder if you could characterize how, what the differences are, what's the philosophical difference in the approach? And, Senator Lott, comment on that, as well?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't, I'd rather focus on the similarities. I think that there is a great deal of similarity in approach with regard to the importance we put on the United Nations and multilateral effort, on the similarity that we have with regard to our concern for weapons of mass destruction, our similarity with regard to the importance of consultation with the Congress. Those are the kinds of things that you'll find in virtually all of the resolutions involved.

So I'm not going to negotiate...

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) an agreement? Are you concerned that he's asking you for a blank check for war?

DASCHLE: No, I'm not concerned about that. I don't think he is asking for a blank check. And I've made it my practice from the beginning not to be engaged in negotiations through the media and I don't want to start here this morning.

QUESTION: It's never too late to start.

TRENT LOTT (R-MS), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Let me just say, these meetings are very helpful, very useful. It gives the four of us, frankly, a time to be together and exchange views and, of course, to hear the report from the president. I felt good about the meeting. I think there is a renewed commitment on our parts to complete some of the work that we have been working on, but without a conclusion, the conferences.

Obviously, we want to continue to try to get an energy conference report. We want to get the terrorism insurance conference report. We do need to get the homeland security issue moving. And I felt like some progress was made yesterday in a bipartisan group that was meeting, talking about maybe some language we can go forward with. And, of course, I think it's clear from our meeting here today, and what I understand from the Speaker and choreographed, that the House is going to go forward with an Iraq resolution next week on language that hopefully will be clarified finally this morning.

Senator Daschle has indicated, in fact, we have a cloture motion filed so that we can actually go to the beginning of the debate in the Senate on Thursday. And it's not that he's having to force it, it's just that so that no one senator can object or delay it.

It will be, again, the discussion on the floor Thursday. And I do think with language you can always -- as long as you have staff and lawyers involved and lots of people talking, it's possible it'll never end. The bottom line is the resolve clause that gives the president of the United States all necessary and appropriate authority, including the use of force, to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction.

Now, there are a lot of other issues that are addressed in the whereas clauses and determination, but that is going to be the bottom line.

I believe the Congress, in a broad bipartisan vote, will give this president the authority to act in appropriate ways, which includes, by the way, as Congressman Gephardt has been saying, continued effort in the United Nations to get a strong resolution to get the inspectors in there, to continue to work with our allies around the world.

But the authority to take action, if that's what's necessary, to deal with these weapons of mass destruction and the threat that they pose to us and the world.

QUESTION: Did it also authorize regime change?

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: The Senate and the House work a little differently, as you know, have different rules and so we are going about this a little differently. We do have an agreement on a House resolution. I don't want to go into the details of it, because I want to go to my caucus this morning and tell them first.

But I think it's a positive step. It does define a lot of this better than it has been in the past. It's quite a different resolution from where we started when the president sent his resolution last week and it does clarify the purposes in the resolve clause and it does talk about various things that have to do with United Nations and reports from the president on the effort on the diplomatic side.

I have said for a long time that Iraq is a problem. It presents a problem after 9/11 that it did not before. And we should deal with it diplomatically if we can, militarily if we must. And I think this resolution does that.

Now, the Senate has a different set of rules and a different way to go about it, but they're starting their work and I think they'll get to a similar conclusion and we'll try to get something positive done.

What we need is a large bipartisan consensus, if we can achieve it, so that we are unified as a country and saying together to the United Nations that we want the United Nations to succeed and, but we also realize that we've got to deal with this, and we hope they will.

DASCHLE: Thank you, all.

HASTERT: Thank you.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons of mass destruction needs to be. What about regime change?

DASCHLE: We'll be happy to...

ZAHN: All right, you've been listening to the congressional leadership respond to reporters' questions about the breakfast they had with the president earlier this morning. You had Senate Minority Leader Lott pretty mirroring, pretty much mirroring what Senate Majority Leader Daschle had to say, that they believe it's not where you start, it's where you end, and they believe there will be broad support for a resolution that talks about the U.N. efforts and the U.S. efforts to deal with the issue of Iraq. And it's interesting to note, as we go to John King now, about how Senator Daschle was much more interested in talking about where the similarities are in the way the two parties are approaching this resolution.

John, I think we should outline just very quickly here when he talked about the importance of the U.N. effort, as did Senate Minority Leader Lott, the acknowledgement of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the importance of consultation with Congress.

So if those are the similarities, what are the key differences at this hour?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are still some differences in the Senate, and Senator Daschle was being polite, if you will, not wanting to criticize his host while standing in his host's front yard. But there are some differences still in the Senate, and Senator Daschle feels emboldened to seek even more changes than what the White House wants because there are some key Republicans, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, also asking for some changes. So Senator Daschle has some Republicans with him in continuing to push for more changes.

But you heard what Congressman Gephardt said. He has an agreement now with the White House and with the Republican Speaker of the House to move forward on a House resolution. That will now be the president's draft, if you will. That will be marked up in the House International Affairs Committee over the next several days, debate on the floor and a vote scheduled next week.

The question now is will the Senate veer much from that and will they have to have a conference committee, a compromise committee to work out the differences?

The congressional process has its bumps, has its bruises, but things are moving forward. The Senate still the problem. And there's still some bad blood, if you will, partisan feeling between Senator Daschle and the White House right now because of the dust up over the homeland security bill.

Paula, we want to show you, as this meeting was under way, the Secret Service out in force here on the grounds of the White House, because a few demonstrators who were protesting against the war in Iraq, tried to climb the fence. And let me just say politely, they frown on that here at the White House.

You see this one demonstrator trying to make her way onto the White House grounds. She was taken into custody. A few others, as well. There are still some peaceful demonstrators across the street. But this will get the alert of the Secret Service any time, especially when the president is in the House and certainly with the congressional leaders in there, as well.

The demonstration is peaceful, no violence there, handled calmly by the police. But you do see Secret Service cat teams, men with automatic rifles coming out on the grounds just in case. They are now sniffing with dogs here at the White House to make sure nobody threw anything over the fence during that. It's quite calm right now, but if you're protesting across the street from the White House, not a terribly good idea to try to climb the fence -- Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, it took her a little while to get over it, I might add.

John, just very quickly, Senator Daschle talked about all the work that's got to get done and he said the work will get done on homeland security, the Iraqi resolution. How long is Congress going to stay in session?

KING: They were supposed to be in session just until the end of next week. Some want to get out as early as Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Most believe they will be here through Friday. I believe that is October 11. These law makers want to go home and run for reelection. They want a good month to be home before the election. So the Iraq resolution, the homeland security bill are the big ones. Some spending items, as well.

There's nothing like a deadline, nothing like the need to go home and campaign for reelection, that forces Congress to make the necessary compromises.

ZAHN: Thank you so much, John.

Appreciate it.


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