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Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Congressional Conferees on the Patients' Bill of Rights and an Exchange With Reporters

May 11, 2000

Africa and Caribbean Basin Trade Legislation

The President. First of all, I would like to thank this very impressive array of Senate and House Members for coming, in the midst of quite a busy time up on the Hill, as we try to work out the remaining issues to get a strong Patients' Bill of Rights passed.

I'd like to begin just by expressing my gratitude to most recently the Senate but also to the House for the truly historic Africa/Caribbean Basin trade bill that passed by, I think, 77 votes in the Senate today. And this bill passed with big bipartisan majorities in both Houses. And it's an example of the kind of thing we can do if we work together. And I'm very grateful to the Congress for that and very much looking forward to this bill.

Patients' Bill of Rights

Last October the House passed the Norwood-Dingell bill by a big majority, but the conferees have not been able to agree on a bill which could then be taken back to the Senate and the House. So this meeting is to determine what the issues are, what the prospects are for resolving them, to make it clear to these Members that I will offer anybody in the White House, starting with me, day or night, to try to help resolve this and hopefully to get a bill out.

I think it's fair to say that most of us, maybe all of us, really want a bill, not an issue, not a debate. We'd like to pass a bill. And so I'm looking forward to this meeting, and I want to thank you all for coming.

Q. What are the prospects for approving it this year?

The President. Well, you should ask us all after the meeting. [Laughter]

Security at the State Department

Q. Mr. President, the FBI testified today there are possible intelligence officers operating as accredited reporters at the State Department. Does that concern you, sir?

The President. Does it concern you? I should be asking if it concerns you. [Laughter] No, I don't want to make light of this. Of course, the testimony today was the first that I had heard that assertion, and obviously it has to be looked into.

I would have thought that you might have docile intelligence officers masquerading as hostile reporters. [Laughter]

Social Security

Q. Mr. President, this morning you told Diane Rehm about some predictions about what you thought George W. Bush might do if he's elected President, in terms of tax cuts, Supreme Court appointments. Do you also think that he would destroy Social Security by privatizing it, as the Vice President has charged?

The President. I don't want to talk about the campaign here. I'm here trying to get something done. I'll be glad to answer—at some appropriate time, I'll tell you what I think ought to be done on Social Security, although I'm pretty well on the record on that. But I don't think this is an appropriate thing for me to discuss right now.

Permanent Normal Trade Relations With China

Q. Mr. President, do you have any concern about comments by Majority Whip DeLay yesterday that he may not be doing quite as well as he had hoped getting Republican votes for the China bill?

The President. No, because I've noticed he's quite effective at getting votes when the time comes—sometimes when I like it and sometimes when I don't. And I think he wants us to do our part, and I'm doing my best. I think in the end, especially after President Ford and President Carter and all those former administration members came, and after the, I think, very important reports in the press today about the Chinese dissidents favoring this vote, I think we'll get there. We've just got a lot of hard work to do.

Northern Ireland Peace Process

Q. Do you have an update on the situation in Northern Ireland, Mr. President? And do you foresee a situation where you would be able to travel over there to celebrate some success?

The President. Well, we're not done yet. There's still a matter to be resolved about what exactly the new police force would be called and how it can be constituted so that both Protestants and Catholics will join the police force and be a part of the unified police force, and what the political problems this issue present to both sides are.

I think what the IRA did in agreeing to put these weapons beyond use and put them in these cachement areas and allow them to be inspected was a terrific step forward and a great credit to Gerry Adams and Michael McGuinness—Martin McGuinness—and everybody else who worked on it.

But we've got one last issue, and I don't think anybody ought to be celebrating until we resolve the one last issue.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:15 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Congressional Conferees on the Patients' Bill of Rights and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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