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Exchange With Reporters Following a Fundraising Reception for Congressional Candidate Gary Franks in Waterbury, Connecticut

October 23, 1990

Federal Budget Crisis

Q. Mr. President, Congress seems to be hung up on the budget again. Will you sign another continuing resolution, number what -- 38 or 39? [Laughter]

The President. Jim [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News], I don't know. I'm so frustrated by Congress' inability to do anything, I don't know what I'm going to do. And I really don't know where it stands. I'm not dodging it. I was just on the phone, and I don't think Congress knows. So, when I get back, why, I'll be talking to our leadership. And this morning, I talked to the Speaker about 6:15 a.m., and I had been somewhat encouraged that they would be able to move. But I gather they had a raucous caucus on the Democratic side, where they couldn't agree on anything.

And so, we'll have to wait and see what happens before I can make a decision on what I'm going to do. But I feel the frustration that I think people all across this country feels about Congress' inability to move. They control both Houses of the Congress. And I am frustrated, but we'll wait and see.

Q. You've come down to 31 percent. Do you feel you've given enough?

The President. I'm not going to talk negotiations; my position is known. And I think they've got to get their act together, is about the way I see it. And I feel free to campaign for a good man at the Governor's level, congressional level here; and our candidates -- men and women all across this country -- are, I think, going to do all right. I think they share the same frustration I feel about the Congress' inability to move. But it doesn't seem to be interfering with what real life is out here in these districts and across this State, I'll tell you from -- --

Civil Rights Legislation

Q. Mr. President, the civil rights bill -- do you think there's a chance that Congress will pass the compromise version this session? And if so, why haven't you bothered to utter a word about it today to give it a push?

The President. Well, because I was hoping that the Congress would do what I asked them to do: pass a civil rights bill -- because I am for civil rights -- that is not a quota bill. I'm opposed to quotas. And I'm glad to have an opportunity to do it here, but I hope they'll get on and do it.

Mr. Franks. And I, too, would be opposed to the original version of the Civil Rights Act of 1990. I do see a quota element to that bill. Whenever a company can be deemed guilty of discrimination due largely to not having the proper number of minorities and females in certain job classifications, it smells like a quota. And I worked for 10 years in labor relations personnel, and I know that goals and timetables do work, but quotas do not work.

Q. Mr. President -- --

The President. I hope we'll get a bill tomorrow. But I don't see any inkling on their part to go ahead and to do this. We've sent one up that is a strong civil rights bill. Marlin [Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to the President] read to you the other day all the similarities between these two bills and pointed out the significant difference.

Q. Mr. President, despite what the candidate says, his position is a minority among blacks and any other minorities. What kind of a signal do you think your veto sends to the minority groups that the Republicans and yourself are trying to draw into the party?

The President. I think it sends a signal that we are for civil rights and we are opposed to quotas. And I think most citizens, when they understand that, regardless of race, will be appreciative of that. But the problem is, I heard one of the leading civil rights activists -- a white man in Washington -- criticizing us on something that's not even in the bill. And I thought Marlin Fitzwater did pretty well on that.

And so -- this customer relations provision -- not in there. And yet he jumped us on that provision. So, I do what I think is right, and I believe I'll have strong support from the American people across the racial lines when they understand that I strongly am for civil rights. And I'm going to continue to oppose something that will inevitably lead to quotas.

Q. Is there any movement to pass that bill, though, in the next couple of days?

The President. I can't tell you. I think the first step would be to see if they can override my veto. Then I would hope that those who are really for civil rights would stand up and say, let's vote for this civil rights bill.

Q. What's your best count? Do you think your veto will hold?

The President. I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I think we'll sustain it.

Q. Are you making any efforts on that front today?

The President. I think we'll sustain -- no, I feel pretty good about -- you mean about sustaining the veto?

Q. Yes.

The President. I think we're in good shape on that.

Q. Have you called anyone?

The President. Not today. No, I feel the issue is clear enough that I think we'll be all right.

Palestinian Demonstrators Killed in Jerusalem

Q. Mr. President, are you prepared to call on Israel to accept a U.N. fact-finding mission?

The President. We've already made clear in the United Nations that we feel that it would be good to have that mission go there, yes.

Q. Is it a mistake, though, that they're refusing?

The President. I've said that we want them to accept it.

Israeli Travel Ban

Q. Mr. President, Israel today closed off the borders of the occupied territories and is prohibiting Palestinians from leaving the occupied territories into Israel. What do you think of that action?

The President. I need to know more about it. I haven't seen that, Tom [Tom Raum, Associated Press]. I don't like to comment on something until I know exactly what happened.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, your reaction to the Saudi comments yesterday -- were they too conciliatory in your mind?

The President. They repudiated the first report that came -- that Prince Abdullah [Prince Sultan bin `Abd al-`Aziz Al Sa`ud, Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia] clarified his own statement. And he was not talking about any compromise, a territorial compromise at all. And that is my position. There is no give on it. If you reward the man with one iota of territory, you've rewarded aggression, and that is not the position of the United States nor of our coalition partners.

Federal Budget Crisis

Q. And just to be clear, last time Congress approached a deadline for the budget, you said time's up, and you threatened to shut down the Government. You sound much more conciliatory this time.

The President. If I sound conciliatory, I don't quite understand that, because I sound frustrated, not conciliatory. I don't know what's happening down there. I thought we'd have a deal this morning, a reasonable deal to get this nation on the road to more jobs and lower interest rates. And I've approached these talks in the spirit of compromise. But now is all kind of action in the Congress. It was in the House of Representatives, and I don't know what they've done today. So, I can't comment on a conciliatory mood or hostile mood -- --

Q. But are you willing to shut down the Government -- --

The President. -- -- or anything other than a confused mood.

Q. -- -- at midnight tomorrow?

The President. I'm going to wait until I get back and talk to the leaders and see exactly what can be done.

Mr. Franks. I'd like to make this presentation, the first of many for Franks for Congress effort.

The President. That's great.

Mr. Franks. And once again, thank you, Mr. President, for coming to Waterbury.

The President. Thank you. Am I being thrown out? [Laughter] Glad to see you all. Thank you very much. Well, an elephant. Thank you.

Iraqi Release of American Hostages

Q. Any reaction to the release of the Americans, Mr. President?

The President. What?

Q. Any reaction to the release of the Americans today?

The President. Well, I'm always pleased when Americans might be released, or anybody is released. But it just reminds me of the total brutality of holding people against their will and then parceling them out as though to look generous. It is brutal. It is unacceptable. But any life that's spared, fine. But it just brings me back to the genesis, and the genesis is it is wrong to be holding people against their will in contravention of all international law.

Mr. Franks' Income Tax Records

Q. Mr. President, have you asked Mr. Gary Franks to release his income tax?

The President. Proponent ploy -- yes, I've seen that. [Laughter]

Q. What did you think about it?

The President. Don't get me started. [Laughter]

Note: The exchange began at 5:10 p.m. at the Sheraton Waterbury Hotel. At the end of the exchange, Mr. Franks gave the President a black ceramic elephant. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Exchange With Reporters Following a Fundraising Reception for Congressional Candidate Gary Franks in Waterbury, Connecticut Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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