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Text: Bush Meets With Congressional Leaders
Saturday, December 2, 2000

Following is the transcript of a news conference today with Texas Gov. George W. Bush, GOP vice presidential candidate Richard B. Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

BUSH: We're honored that the speaker and the leader of the Senate have come to visit with Dick and me. I really look forward to this discussion. It's going to be the beginning of a lot of discussions about how to do what's right for the country.

A part of our agenda is to listen to, you know, their issues, and part of the agenda is to discuss issues such as Medicare and prescription drugs or Social Security reform.

You know, Dick and I have campaigned a lot on strengthening the military to keep the peace. I'm sure there's a lot of areas where we can find common ground on that.

I do want to continue to talk about tax relief, particularly given the fact that there's some warning signs on the horizon about our economy. And I believe the agenda that we'll be bringing to the Congress is one that will help the economic growth of the country, that we're making sure people who want to work will be able to find work. Part of the Social Security reform package will help capital accumulation.

And so I'm really looking forward to it.

And not only that, I've promised both of these leaders that I'm going to cook them a good hamburger.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Governor, how do you feel about...

BUSH: Hold on a second. I've got a few more comments, Tom.

(LAUGHTER)

Just fixing to get into international policy.

Secretary, would you like to say a few words?

CHENEY: Sure. It's a special pleasure to have the chance to spend some time with Trent and Denny Hastert. We all served together in the House in our youth, when we were somewhat younger than we are now. But we've been friends for many years.

I look forward to a very productive relationship. I'm, of course, as a House member, now I get to be president of the Senate when we get all this sorted out, and that should be a fascinating assignment as well, too.

I can't think of two men that would be better positioned to help us as we go through this transition process. And I know we hope and look forward to having the opportunity down the road to meet with the counterparts of the other party as well, too. We're clearly going to want to reach out and work with those of the other political faith as well.

Mr. Speaker?

HASTERT: Well, Secretary Cheney and Senator Lott and I all at one time or another, in one capacity or another, have been whips in the House. We know what it is to pass legislation, to bring together bipartisan agreement.

And there's some important things I think the American people want the president to do and the Congress to do. And that's to get to work and to, you know, improve education in this country. We've all talked about education. It's time to stop talking and do something about it.

They want to see better health care and more choices in health care. We need to stop talking about it. We've been talking about it for 10 years. It's time to do something about it.

We want to have a better environment for our people who serve in the military and to keep a strong America.

And you know, those people that go to work and earn a paycheck and punch a time clock, and commute to work, and go out in the morning, into the barn at 5:30 in the morning to do chores, we think that they ought to keep a little bit more of that money so that they can invest it instead of bureaucrats in Washington--do that.

We also think that, you know, to pay down the debt is probably one of the best legacies that we can hand off to our children and our grandchildren, and we want to do that.

So it's time to start to plan to get those things done. You just don't do them at the turn of a nickel, or just in a second's knee jerk. It takes some time; it takes some planning. I think those are the things that we want to talk about and lay out a strategy on how we're going to do it and to bring us together so that we really serve the American people.

LOTT: Well, Governor, first, it's a great pleasure to be here with you and Laura and see your place here in Texas. I've always loved Texas, and we're delighted to be here. It's a little cooler than I had expected it to find it.

And of course our good friend Dick Cheney, former secretary of defense, he's a great friend and wonderful people. We look forward to having the opportunity to work with you.

And I do think it's the right thing, the responsible thing, to do, to begin to talk about how to proceed from here. The transition period is always compressed, and it's going to be even more compressed this time than usual.

One of the very important things in any new administration is to get your team on board. And confirmation takes some time. You have to have investigations of the background. And I'm hoping that something will be moving in that area soon.

And then, of course, in the Senate, we've got a very delicate situation. I was talking to Dick last week or so. He said, well, how are we going to deal with that? I said, well, very gingerly and with your vote.

(LAUGHTER)

He said, I was afraid you'd say that.

But, of course, I think we are going to have cooperation in the Senate from the Democrats. I've talked to Tom Daschle regularly and other Democrats, and I know you have been. And I've been assured that we're going to work together to get the confirmation process moving as quickly as we can.

But I thought the speaker really did a good job in talking about the issues, too, and talking about it in a way people really understand. We have some big issues that we need to come together on in this country.

You've talked a lot about education, obviously. As the son of a school teacher, I really care about that myself. And we've got the co-chair who's done a little teaching.

And of course, Medicare and the prescription drug issue.

I've been looking at what's happening at what's happening with the fact that we don't have a national energy policy. Just today, Iraq has announced that they're, you know, going to be cutting off the supply. And the price of a barrel of oil is up pretty high. And we've got to look to the future in that and a number of other areas.

So to begin to talk about not only the transition but the confirmation and the agenda for next year, is not only, again, something that we want to do, it's essential.

And so, thank you for this opportunity.

QUESTION: Governor, now that the Supreme Court has had its hearing, how do you feel your prospects stand right now...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: We'll wait and see what they say at the Supreme Court and in all these different courts.

Dick and I felt like we've won the first three elections--or the first election three times--and we're confident that when it's all said and done that he and I will be honored to be the president and the vice president. That's why we're having these meetings. That's why we're in the process of preparing to assume the offices to which we feel like we've been elected.

QUESTION: Governor, what are the signs of slowing in the economy that you've seen?

BUSH: Well, there's some indications that some of the sectors, the automobile sector, may be slowing down a little bit. We hope this isn't the case. There are some concerns about high energy prices in our economy. There's some indications of some potential slowdown.

Certainly, Dick and I certainly hope that's not the case, but the role of a leader is to anticipate and to prepare a plan that will help keep the economy going. And that's exactly what I said during the campaign.

And I'm going to remind both the speaker and the leader about the agenda that I talked about. And I feel one of the reasons I'm sitting here is because of the agenda. And it was a clear agenda. We had a pretty darn tough battle.

QUESTION: With a 50-50 Senate, how do you see getting an agenda forward, should you become president?

BUSH: Well, that's to be part of our job is to make it clear that our agenda is good for America. This isn't a Republican agenda; it's not a Democrat agenda; it's an agenda that's going to treat old people with dignity in their retirement. It's going to be an agenda that addresses the problems that we now face.

And I think all of us in this room are committed to doing what's right for America. And I'm convinced that we'll have good relations with the leadership on the Democrat side as well.

As a matter of fact, this election and the fact that it is as close as it's been and as drawn out as it's is requires a group of citizens that rise above partisanship to do what's right for the country, more so than ever in recent modern history. And I understand that. And I look forward to the challenge, I really do.

Yes?

QUESTION: Governor, early in your campaign, you had some pointed criticism of the Republican leadership. I think it was in San Jose, you sort of accused them of ``balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.'' Now, this embrace, so, which is it? Are you the outsider...

(LAUGHTER)

... in or are you part of this...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Well, I'm soon to be the insider. I'm soon to be the president.

I think it was--I didn't criticize anybody individually, because I hold the leadership in the House and the leadership in the Senate in high esteem, in high regard.

I talked about a plan that had been floated to balance the budget by working on the Earned Income Tax Credit. I didn't think that was the right thing to do, and I expressed my opinion. The speaker and I have discussed that since. He didn't take it personally. As a matter of fact, he appreciated the fact that someone running as a standard bearer of our party would feel free to express his opinion.

And I'm sure there's going to be moments when we don't agree 100 percent of the time. I'm mindful of what my friend, the former lieutenant governor, Democrat lieutenant governor of Texas said: If we agreed 100 percent of the time, one of us wouldn't be necessary.

And there will be disagreements. But our pledge is that we'll have disagreements in a respectful way, that we'll have honest discussions, that we won't be playing games with each other, and that we'll put America's interests in front of all partisan interests and all party interests.

We're all proud Republicans. We're proud of our philosophy. But there's an agenda out there that is necessary to make this country the best it can possibly be. And it's a positive agenda that I'm confident we can get a lot of it done quickly.

QUESTION: Governor, have you talked to any Democrats in Congress yet?

BUSH: I did. I talked to Senator John Breaux yesterday. Had a good, frank...

QUESTION: Did you ask him if he wanted a job?

BUSH: No, I just had a good...

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I thought I'd try.

BUSH: I had a good discussion with him. I knew it might put him in an awkward position that we had a discussion before finality has finally happened in this presidential race.

I've known John before, so he felt comfortable and I felt comfortable having just a general discussion about the state of affairs here in American politics.

The leader can speak to John. And I know Dick knows him well. He's a neighbor of ours in Texas, and he's a good solid citizen who I talked a lot about in the course of the campaign, particularly in terms of Medicare.

He proposed the framework for an agenda for change that--the leader and I have talked about that agenda as well. As a matter of fact, one of our first conversations we had. After the election, Trent brought up the fact that John Breaux was a forward-thinking senator who was willing to bring Republicans and Democrats together to make sure seniors had prescription drugs and a viable Medicare plan.

So, I did talk to John.

I tried to call the congressman from Mississippi, but he was out of the country. And those are the only two contacts I've made.

STAFF: Thank you very much.

BUSH: Thank you all for coming.


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