Remarks by the President, Speaker of the House Hastert, Senator Lott, Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt at Beginning of Bipartisan Leadership Meeting (9/12/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release                        September 12, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT,

                             The Cabinet Room

4:30 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  I'd like to make just a couple of brief remarks and
then ask the Congressional leaders to speak.  Let me, first of all, thank
them for coming here, I'm looking forward to our meeting and to these last
few weeks of working together before they adjourn for election season.

     I'm hoping that we can resolve our differences over the budget,
especially in the area of education -- and I made a more detailed statement
about that earlier today.  I'm also hoping that we can pass a patients'
bill of rights and hate crimes legislation and a minimum wage agreement
that will have some small business tax relief in it and perhaps some other
things that I think there is bipartisan support for, like the long term
care credit.

     I hope that we can reach agreement on the New Markets legislation that
passed the House overwhelmingly in a bipartisan fashion, and I think has
big bipartisan support in the Senate.  And I still have some hope we can
reach agreement on this Medicare drug issue, and I'll keep working.

     But the main thing is that we're here meeting and we'll see what we
can do together and I think we ought to do just as much as we possibly can
and I'm looking forward to the meeting.

     Mr. Speaker.

     SPEAKER HASTERT:  Well, thank you, Mr. President.  I think we're down
here to find a fair middle ground and try to start to have some
productivity and to finish up the season.

     You know, I think we all agree we want to strengthen Social Security
and Medicare, and we've worked to do that and made sure that those trust
funds were secure.  It's the first time in, I think, modern history that we
haven't borrowed from those trust funds to run government.

     We want to reduce taxes for those workers who want to save and we want
to make sure that those small businesses that hire them get some tax
breaks, as well as some guaranteed wages for those folks.  And I think
that's something that we can work on, and we just need to lay down our
priorities and how we're going to do it.

     Education is important.  We all want to increase education.  I think
one of the things we want to do especially in education is make sure, at
least from our side of this thing, is give some folks some choices,
especially at the local level.

     But one of the things that I think is pretty important -- you know, we
came down here about 20 months ago and we talked about the surplus and we
talked about setting aside a good part of the Social Security surplus and
consequently, the Medicare surplus and locking it away and not spending it.
I think one of our challenges -- and I hope you join with us -- we'd like
to take at least 90 percent of the non-Social Security and Medicare surplus
and lock away and make sure that we pay down the debt with it.  And it's
something that you've talked about, especially the tax -- future interests
and those things.  And I think we can do that and still have enough money
to do the things that we talked about in priority.

     So I hope we can get some agreement to work towards that end.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Senator Lott.

     SENATOR LOTT:  Well, Mr. President, I think it is important we have
this meeting and find the fair middle ground the Speaker mentioned, that we
can work together on.

     I think in the Senate, of course, we need to complete action on the
China trade bill, and we're making some progress on that.  And Senator
Daschle and I will be working with both sides to try to get an agreement to
complete it this week or early next week.

     I think we need to focus on providing the funds for the programs that
the people are counting on.  We've got agriculture, obviously; we've got a
lot of disasters and agriculture needs.  Now we're going to need additional
funds for the fires; to provide the funding for education, defense.  So I
hope that we will focus early on how we can get through these funds for
these important programs, the appropriations bills.

     Beyond that, I think there are some other areas that we can work on.
Obviously, I think that the pension and retirement programs -- you
mentioned it -- we obviously think that's a high priority.  We've got a
defense authorization bill that would provide pay for increase to military
personnel and also increased health benefits.  So there are a number of
areas like that that I think we can get done this year that would mean an
awful lot to the people.

     But I also think that one of the most important things we've done over
the last couple of years is to start to pay down the national debt.  And we
have an opportunity this year to -- in the next fiscal year to have a real
impact on that.  I think that if we pay down 90 percent of our surplus on
the national debt, that would still leave funds for the small business tax
cuts, the retirement benefits, as well as some increased funding for things
like education.  And I think we can find a way to provide some prescription
drugs for our seniors now.  It will take a lot of work, but it's worth the

     So we're prepared to work on all of those and, hopefully, today will
be the beginning of moving forward on all those.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Senator Daschle.

     SENATOR DASCHLE:  Mr. President, thank you for having us down.  I
think this is a very important moment.  We've got a very limited amount of
time left to do a lot of work and I agree, in large measure with what my
Republican leadership colleagues have said.

     I think we do have to put focus on paying off some of the debt this
year.  And I guess the question would be which of the tax cuts that have
been proposed are now going to be taken off the table so we can accomplish
that, because I do think if we're going to do it we've got to look at the
balance that you've talked about on a number of occasions -- can we do all
of what you proposed in a way that provides that balance.

     I'm hopeful that we can show balance and show the kind of cooperation
that is going to be required to address the minimum wage; to address
meaningful education, especially smaller class size and the opportunity to
ensure that we've got the teachers out there that need to do the job;
prescription benefits and patients' bill of rights.  They're all possible
if we could just close the gap and finish our work.  And I'm hopeful that
this meeting will lead to it.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Gephardt.

     CONGRESSMAN GEPHARDT:  Thank you, Mr. President, for having us here.
I think we can pay down the debt and take care of Social Security and
Medicare if we can get the tax cuts focused on the people that need them,
which are people in the middle class and I hope we can work that out.

     The two issues that my constituents talk about the most are a
prescription medicine program and Medicare.  This is deeply desired by
people all over the country.  And I hope we can find a way to get it done
this year.

     The other one is the patients' bill of rights.  If you're sick and
you're not getting out of your HMO or your health insurance what you need,
you need that now.  So I really hope we can get that done this year.

     Q    Mr. President, is the 90 percent of the surplus set aside, is
that acceptable for you?  And given the proximity of the election and the
major philosophical differences over a patients' bill of rights and how to
do a drug benefit, any realistic chance in your view of getting that done?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me answer the two substantive questions,
then I'll talk about the budget.

     I think the -- we have honest differences over the Medicare drug issue
and how to achieve it.  Whether we can bridge them or not, I don't know,
but we ought to try.

     Secondly, on the patients' bill of rights, I think we're almost down
to one issue -- one or two issues, and I think we could get a majority for
a good bill if we really work at it.  I think the chances of that are
reasonably good still and I'm prepared to do everything I can to keep
working on it.

     Now, on the budget, let me say, I presented a budget back in January
which saves 90 percent of the surplus for debt reduction. And, obviously, I
agree with that.  I think the most important thing is whether we're on a
glide path to pay the debt off over the next 10 to 12 years, which is what
I think we ought to do, because I think it will keep interest rates lower
and that will save people money, that amounts to a huge tax cut.  If you
keep interest rates a point lower for a decade, that's $390 billion in
lower mortgage payments alone.  So I think that's important.

     Whether we can do it this year or not depends upon what the various
spending commitments are.  I'd have to -- I've got to add them all up.
Senator Lott mentioned some.  We've got a pretty large bill on wild fires
in the west that we have to pay.  We have to see where the farmers are with
the farm prices and what we're going to have to pay.  We're back on a glide
path toward increasing the defense budget and we've got to keep the pay up.
The military expects to meet its recruitment bills this year and all major
services for the first time in a few years, and it's in no small measure
because the Congress voted to raise the pay.

     So we've got to add all this up.  Then we still have to decide which
tax cuts we're going to be for and how much does that cost in this year.
The most important thing is that over a five year period over a 10 year
period, are we paying down enough of the debt to get the country out of
debt by at least 2012.  And I think if we can get a commitment to that,
then we can work out the details in this budget year in a way that
everybody can go home and say, well, this is what we did, I like this, I
didn't like that, but we're still on the right path and we're going to get
there.  That's the most important thing.

     Q    Mr. President, is it time for a moratorium on the federal death
penalty, in light of the racial disparity and the way it's administered?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first there was a racial disparity, then there
is a rather astonishing geographic disparity, apparently -- which since
we're supposed to have a uniform law of the land raises some questions.

     I think it's important, first of all, for the Attorney General to be
able to comment and make some kind of report and recommendation to me
before I say anything else about that.  I want to wait and hear from her
and consult with others.

     There has been no suggestion, as far as I know, that any of the cases
where the convictions occurred were wrongly decided.  That is, there has
been no DNA type questions or ineffective assistance of counsel type
questions raised.  There has been a bill in the Senate that seeks to
address those issues nationwide, which I think is a very good thing to do.

     So I think if anyone like me, who supports capital punishment and has
actually presided over executions, I think has an extra strong
responsibility to make sure that there's nothing wrong with the process.
And so I want to wait and hear from the Attorney General; but I don't think
I should make a judgment one way or the other today based on just what I've
read in the press, and that's really all I know right now.

     Q    Mr. President, have you decided not to send the Vietnam trade
agreement to the Hill?  And, if so, why not?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I do not believe that I have made that decision.
Maybe someone in the administration has and you may know it and I don't.
(Laughter.)  Because last week I was occupied, as you know, at the United
Nations with a whole wide range of issues.

     To the best of my knowledge -- if I don't send it up there it'll be
only because I believe that the Senate and the House couldn't deal with it
at this time.  And I don't believe there is substantial opposition to it,
it's just a question of whether we can get it up on the calendar.  But to
the best of my knowledge, we haven't made a final decision on that.

     Q    Mr. President, this is your final time through this; some of
these gentlemen will most likely all be here next year, although, some
might like to be in different seats.  (Laughter.)  This is your last time
through this.  Any one thing that you want to come out of this budget fight

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I'd like us to be faithful to the progress we've
made since we really started working together.  I mean, since 1996, we've
had all -- every year we've had a fight with -- both sides have honestly
said what they thought.  And then at the end, we found a way to come
together and pass a budget that was good for the American people.

     And my overwhelming hope is that we'll do that again.  And the only
way to do that is we've got to take some of their ideas and they've got to
take some of ours and maybe we'll come up with a third way.  But what I
always believe is that no matter how much progress we make, there will be
enough honest differences for the people, for the voters to make a judgment
at election time on whom they would choose for President, Vice President,
Senate, Congress.

     So what I'm just hoping is that we'll find a way to do what we've done
ever since '96, and we'll find a way to do some things together that are
quite important.  And we have done some important things.  We did welfare
reform together, we did the Balanced Budget Act of '97 together, we did the
child health insurance program together.  We made some remarkable steps
forward in education in '98 and '99.  We had -- four years ago, this
after-school program was a $1 million experiment, now there are 850,000
kids in after-school programs in America.

     There was a study yesterday in the paper by the Urban Institute that
said I think 4 million more children that go home alone after school,
between the age of six and 12.  This budget would put another 850,000 to a
million of those kids in after-school programs.

     So every year we've been able to do some things that are -- that every
one of us, without regard to party, could be proud of.  And we've kept this
deficit coming down and now we've got a surplus and we're paying the debt

     So that's my goal, that within that framework we'll just keep on
trucking and we'll do the best we can and the American people will make
their judgment in November and the country will go on and be just fine.

     Q    What do you think of the rat ads, sir?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think you can deal with that one without my help.

                           END                   4:45 P.M. EDT

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E