Remarks by the President on Signing Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act 2000 (10/11/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

                                                                  For
Immediate Release               September 11, 2000


                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                   ON SIGNING DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
               AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT 2000

                              The Rose Garden


9:50 A.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  I want to thank Representative Norm
Dicks and Representative Ralph Regula for their extraordinary bipartisan
leadership.  I thank Secretary Babbitt, NEA Chairman Bill Ivy, National
Endowment of the Humanities Chairman Bill Ferris, the Institute of Museum
and Library Services Director Beverly Sheppard, OMB Director Lew,
Millennium Council Director Ellen Lovell and all the other many people who
are here who have worked so hard with Chairman Regula and Congressman Dicks
and Members of both parties in both Houses to protect the environment and
strengthen our nation's artistic and cultural life.

     I have just signed this year's Department of Interior Appropriations
Act.  It is a remarkable piece of legislation that provides a lasting
legacy for our grandchildren by establishing for the first time a dedicated
and protected fund that states, communities and federal agencies can use to
buy and protect precious federal land -- from neighborhood parks to Civil
War battlefields, to parcels of pristine wilderness.  It doubles our
investment in land conservation next year, and ensures even greater funding
in the years to come.

     While we had hoped to gain even more and will continue to work for
these priorities in our budget negotiations, this new lands trust
unquestionably represents a major leap forward in the quest to preserve our
environment -- a quest begun by President Teddy Roosevelt a century ago.

     This bill will also do much more.  It will provide much-needed
additional funding for health, education and law enforcement in our Native
American communities, something that has been of particular interest to me.
It will provide better funding to take better care of our national parks
and deal with a lot of long pent-up maintenance needs.

     It will increase support for firefighters in preventing forest fires
-- something America has seen all too much in the last few months.  It
increases our efforts to combat climate change and to provide more energy
security by increasing funds for research and to energy-saving
technologies, including more energy-efficient buildings, and automobiles.
It supports the Partnership For The Next Generation Vehicles which the Vice
President has led, and strengthens our energy security through providing
funding for the Northeast heating oil reserve.

     The bill also increases support for arts and humanities, including the
first funding increase for the National Endowment for the Arts since
Congress proposed to eliminate it in 1995.  The birds like it.  (Laughter.)
It will help to expand our efforts to bring the experience of art to
children and to citizens not matter where they live, from inner-cities to
remote rural areas.  We're also pleased that the bill includes a third year
of funding for the Save America's Treasure programs, the largest historic
preservation effort in our nation's history, which the First Lady has led.

     Just as important is the fact that the bill does not include
contentious riders which would have damaged our environment.  This
legislation is proof-positive that when we sit down together and work in a
bipartisan spirit, we can do things for the American people.  And, again, I
want to thank Mr. Regula and Mr. Dicks and all of the others who have
worked with them to do that.

     We still have a lot of work to do.  We've got 10 appropriations bills
to pass, an education budget that invests in accountability and what works,
including the continuation of our 100,000 teacher program, funds to
modernize and repair schools, an expanded after-school and college
opportunity program, qualified teachers in every classroom, a criminal
justice budget that gives us safer streets and stronger communities, a
budget that enforces civil rights and ensures stronger efforts for equal
pay for women, creates opportunities for all Americans to share in our
prosperity through the New Markets Initiative.

     I would also like to ask one more time for Congress to pass the
patients' bill of rights, which passed the House of Representatives with a
large vote exactly a year ago this week.

     Unfortunately, it appears that instead of passing patient protections,
legislation intended to restore reductions in the Medicare program is
unduly tilted toward the HMOs who killed the patients' bill of rights, or
have so far.

     Last night I sent a letter to the leaders rejecting that allocation of
funds.  There are rural, urban teaching hospitals, community service
providers, nursing homes, any number of other recipients of these funds
that would be substantially disadvantaged if the present allocation goes
through.

     So I hope that we can put the needs of the patients ahead of the HMOs
and do the right thing on health care.  But let me say again:  I think it
is very important that the American people understand this is a truly
historic achievement, achieved in a genuine, bipartisan spirit to create a
permanent basis for preserving our natural heritage and advancing our
common artistic and cultural values.  I am profoundly grateful.

     Thank you very much.

     Q    Mr. President, did your peace plan for the Middle East ever
contemplate sovereignty for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the last thing I think we need to be doing now
is talking about -- I think you know what we talked about at Camp David and
what we've talked about since has been fairly well publicized.

     Q    No, it hasn't.  I don't know what your plan is.

     THE PRESIDENT:  But I do not believe that any of us should be saying
or doing anything now except focusing on putting an end to the violence,
keeping people alive, calming things down, and getting back to the
negotiating table.

     And I do believe, by the way, that a plan to get back to the
negotiating table is an important part of ending the violence in a
substantial way.  And so for me, that's what we're doing.  That's what I've
been working on for several days now, almost a week.

     Q    Do you think you will be traveling to the Mideast or elsewhere to
meet with the leaders from -- Palestinians and the Israelis?

     THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, as always, I'm prepared to do whatever I
can to help.  But I think the most important thing is that we all keep
working to calm things down, keep them calm, and then find a way to get the
peace process going again.

     I think Secretary Albright or I might go; maybe in time we'll both go.
I had a long talk this morning with Secretary General Kofi Annan, and we've
been working together in an attempt to make sure we've got a substantial
calm there.

     I can do a lot here on the phone.  I've been spending a lot of days
and nights on the phone, and I hope that the United States is having a
positive impact.  But the first thing we've got to do is to get this
situation calmed down and figure out where to go from here.  But I do
believe where to go from here must include a resumption of the peace talks
because that's one of the reasons that we've had things so calm for so
long, that we've basically had these talks going along, moving in the right
direction.

     We have to reach an agreement on this fact-finding effort to determine
what happened and how to keep it from happening again, and I think we can
do that.  So we've just got to keep working on it.

     Q    Can I follow up on that for one second?  A follow-up on that for
one second?  This is sort of a pointed question about the Middle East.  At
this point, if you're frustrated about possibly setting up a summit over
there, do not the Israelis and the Palestinians at least owe you the
courtesy of participating in such a summit, considering what you have tried
to do to bring peace to the region?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, yes.  I'm not worried about that.  I think --
that's not what's at issue there.  I think we can do that.  But the main
thing we have to do is, we don't need just another meeting, we need to know
what we're going to do and how we're going to do it.

     I wouldn't over-read the fact that there won't be a big meeting
imminently in Egypt.  I don't think you should over-read that as a
reflection that either the Israelis or the Palestinians do not want to
continue the peace process.  This is -- I think everybody is shocked at how
quickly and how deeply it got out of hand.  And I think the most important
thing now is to restore calm.
     We've had a couple of pretty good days, people are really trying, and
we're trying to put together a way forward, which will increase the chances
that things will stay calm and more peaceful.  So that's what we're working
on.  And I just have to tell you, it's very important to us to keep all of
our options open, it's important that you know that I'm willing to do
whatever I can to help, but these things have to take place in a certain
way in order for them to make sense, and I'm doing the very best I can with
it.

     Q    Some critics of the administration's policy blame some of the --

     Q    -- spoke of fact-finding as an agreement to return to
negotiations, do you need to see those before you agree to go to the
Mideast or send a representative?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, no.  First of all, I don't need to see anything
before I send representatives.  We've been involved with them too long, and
we have been already -- keep in mind, we've had people already in the
region, and then Secretary Albright met with them in Paris, and now lots of
others coming in.

     I have been talking to them all for extended period of times, really
since the beginning of the difficulties.  So that's not it.  The point is,
everything that the United States does should be designed toward, number
one, trying to preserve the calm, and number two, trying to restore the
peace process.  And so I will do whatever I think is likely to advance
those objectives.  So that's the only thing I was saying.  We're in this
for the long haul; we have been from the beginning, and we'll stay.

     Q    Are you disappointed at Mr. Arafat, Mr. President?  Are you
disappointed in Arafat's attitude?
     Q    Some of the administration's critics blame some of the violence
on the failed Camp David talks and charge that summit was called too soon.
Do you think that's unfair?  What's your response to that?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think if there had been no talks at Camp David, it
would be worse now, because the pressure on the Palestinians to
unilaterally declare a state would have been far worse, because their level
of misunderstanding would have been even greater, because they had never --
in all of these seven years, they had never talked about these big, deep,
underlying issues -- not in a serious, formal way.

     So I think, certainly, the Israelis, I think, were disappointed that
they were as forthcoming as they were and they thought more progress should
have been made, but I think that everybody had a sense -- I announced that
at the time.

     But then after that, they continued to talk and everybody had the
sense that they were moving forward.  So I don't think that the evidence
will support that conclusion.

     Keep in mind, we were running out of time and the Palestinians,
Chairman Arafat delayed the date that he had previously set for unilateral
declaration.  So the facts on the ground and the behavior of the parties do
not support that conclusion.

     The truth is, we got down to the tough issues where there were no easy
answers.  And I think that what this tells everybody is that after all
these years of working together, there are still underlying different
perceptions that have to be worked on.  And we slid off into a sense where
both sides felt as if they had been victimized and abused.

     There is no alternative here but to get back together and to go back
to work.

     Q    How would you like to live under military occupation for 50
years?

     Q    What exactly are you recommending on how to calm things down?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, they're working on that.  They have worked
together on that.  They have common security understandings and a very
detailed set of things that both sides have been doing, and they're talking
about it some more.  So I think first, you have to do that, and then they
have to figure out beyond the security operations how they're going to get
back together.

     Q    You are reportedly disappointed by Arafat and puzzled by his
attitude.  Are those reports true?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I don't think that anything I say that stirs this up
is very helpful.  I think that, look, there's a lot of people dying over
there.  We need to stop people dying.  And there's been enough people
saying enough things that have contributed to that.

     My goal is to stop people dying and then get them back together.  We
can all have our judgments -- you have yours; they're somehow implicit in
some of the questions you're asking -- but what I have noticed in these
circumstances is, if they do good things, there is enough credit to go
around, and if the wheel runs off and people start to die, then there's
enough blame to go around.

     This is not the time to be assessing that.  This is a time to make a
primary first commitment to end violence, to keep calm, to start the peace
process again, and then they can establish some mechanism to evaluate what
happened and why, and how to keep it from ever happening again.

     Both of them have agreed to that.  They haven't exactly agreed on the
modalities, but they both agreed to that.  So we can't lose sight of the
fact that the most important thing right not is to stop people from getting
shot and wounded and killed and to get the peace process back on track and
to give a sense of safety and security back to all the people there.

     When you get -- when things are most explosive in the Middle East,
when both sides feel victimized -- and we were slipping toward that at a
rapid pace over the last several days -- now both sides are feeling -- are
taking responsibility here for moving out of this, and I think the
statement that Prime Minister Barak made in the middle of his night-long
cabinet meeting a couple of nights ago was very helpful in that regard, and
a wise thing to do.  And then he and Chairman Arafat have been doing some
specific things here on this security front, and we need to support that
and not -- look, there will be plenty of time in a calmer atmosphere for
people to say whatever it is they've got to say in a political nature.

     But we can't bring any of those kids back to life, we can't bring any
of those young people back to life, we can't bring -- Lord knows how long
it will take to reestablish some of the relationships that have been
severed there, and none of us need to do anything to make this worse.  We
need to calm this down.

     Thank you.
                    END              10:08 A.M. EDT


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