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Remarks to Reporters on Signing the Message of Disapproval of the Public Debt Limit Extension Bill

June 05, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. I have received from the Congress this afternoon a bill which cancels the imposition of the oil conservation fee that I imposed earlier last month. This was a decision made by me, as recommended by the leaders of the Congress, to save on imported oil, and to help on the control of inflation and unemployment in this Nation. I believe it was the right decision when I made it, and I believe it is the right decision now.

I cannot accept this action by the Congress without expressing my strong disapproval of it and my absolute conviction that it doesn't help for public officials to stand up and make speeches about conserving energy and controlling inflation and controlling unemployment, unless they are willing to face the political heat when the time comes to make a tough decision for the benefit of this country. So, because of the congressional action and because of my conviction that we must conserve energy, I am vetoing the legislation sent to me today by the Congress.

[At this point, the President signed the message.]

This veto message will be sent to the Congress immediately, and I hope that the Congress will uphold my veto and keep in effect the oil conservation fee which is so important for our country.

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us whether you intend to debate Senator Kennedy as he asked today? And could you tell us about your meeting with him?

THE PRESIDENT. No questions about the oil conservation? [Laughter]

Q. Sir, what do you think you will do if they override your veto. What will you do then?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'll face that decision if and when that occasion arises. I don't know what the Congress will do. But I'll just have to make a judgment then. I had a good?

Q. Mr. President, can we go back to the other subject, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. What was the subject? [Laughter]

Q. Senator Kennedy—he told us that he asked you again if you wouldn't debate him. And what did you tell him? And just generally, what about the meeting?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, the first exchange was a very friendly one. I congratulated him on a very forceful campaign, on the effectiveness of his campaign; pointed out to him, and we agreed, that the primary season was now over, that we still had some differences of opinion remaining on the number of delegates that he and I would have on the final vote. I'm convinced that I will be nominated, and he's not convinced of that fact yet.

We agreed that we had some differences of opinion on issues. The most important difference of opinion was that he thinks the best way to address these differences is through some sort of public debate, I presume on television for an hour or so. I pointed out to Senator Kennedy that since the primary season was over that my opinion was that the best way to address these differences which do still exist between him and me is through the platform process, with Senator Kennedy presenting his own views about what the Democratic Party platform should be on which the nominee will run; let me present my views to the platform committee, and others have the same opportunity if they choose; and then a drafting comminute will come out, hopefully, with the resolution of some of these differences, because of the language used.

That recommendation from the drafting committee will then be made by the platform committee, and if there are still remaining differences and 25 percent of the platform committee believe them to be important, they can be taken to the floor of the convention itself.

There, the strongest possible spokesman that we can get to present my views and Senator Kennedy's views will be used to present those issues in a sharply defined form to all the delegates chosen at the convention, both representing him and me and let the delegates make an ultimate judgment on how the Democratic Party stands on this issue as decided by the representatives of the people in all the States and territories of this country.

So, that's the difference that remains, primarily, is whether or not the platform process, including a final vote on the convention, should decide the position of the party or whether there should be some public, televised debate between me and him.

Q. Mr. President, how are you going to persuade the Senator to drop out of the race?

THE PRESIDENT. I did not ask him to drop out of the race.

Q. How are you going to? Do you have any plans?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no—that's a judgment for him to make.

The final decision about who will be the nominee will be made by the delegates when they cast their official vote at the convention itself. I'm absolutely convinced that a substantial majority of the delegates will vote for me as the nominee. But the decision about dropping out or continuing or how to proceed between now and then is one for the Senator to make himself, and I respect his right to retain his delegates and to retain his campaign intact if that's his decision to do so.

I also pointed out and we had a very harmonious understanding that in allocating representatives on the rules committee, the credentials committee, the platform committee, and so forth, that we would bend over backwards to treat the Senator fairly, to make sure that his representatives had an adequate right to speak for him if there were disputes on the platform, credentials, or rules.

Q. How bad will this continued contest, however, in the Democratic Party hurt the chances of the nominee—you think it'll be you—in the fall against Ronald Reagan?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, obviously, the longer it takes for all of the Democrats to come together and harness our combined efforts toward a victory in November, the more difficult it will be. But in spite of any foreseeable difficulties, I'm convinced that Fritz Mondale and I will win in November against Ronald Reagan and whoever he chooses to be Vice President.

Q. If you're reelected, would you abide by the Democratic platform?


Q. If you're reelected, would you abide by the Democratic platform?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll have to reserve the judgment on that. There were a couple of items—I don't remember them now-from 1976 on which I did not agree, but I made my disagreement very clear to the delegates and to the public. But in general, my intention is to abide by the platform to the ultimate extent possible and, hopefully, to work out differences between me and Senator Kennedy and perhaps Governor Brown and others in that long and carefully contrived process according to what democracy is.

Q. Mr. President, was there anybody in the room besides you and he at this meeting?


Q. Was there any progress, Mr. President, toward unity of the Democratic Party during this hour you spent with the Senator?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think so. There was a sharing of respect, mutually I think, because of the effectiveness of the two campaigns run. There was a commitment on my part to the Senator that he and his supporters would be treated fairly in allocating delegates and in the procedures of the convention itself.

There was an acknowledgement that we share many commitments in common to minimize the adverse effect of economic circumstances on the families of this Nation who look to us for leadership, and there was also a common realization that the most important thing for us to do is to defeat the Republican nominee in the fall.

Q. Did he say, sir, that he would support you if you became the nominee of the party?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I didn't pin him down on that, but the final result of our meeting was that there were many things on which we agree. There was one basic thing on which we disagree: his desire to have a televised, I presume, public debate for an hour or so, and my belief that the differences between us on the issues, to the extent that they have not already been clearly defined in the campaign for the last 7 months, could best be judged by the delegates, ultimately, on the convention floor.

Q. When will he see you again?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. We agreed to stay in touch directly, if necessary, and through our appointed representatives, as the next days and weeks go by.

Q. Mr. President, do you think the differences on economic policy between you and the Senator can be reconciled by whatever process?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think so. You have to remember, however, that anything I might espouse or propose would have to be tempered by the willingness of the Congress to adopt it. I've made many proposals to the Congress, as you know, since I've been in office, and so have all other predecessors in the Oval Office, that the Congress has not been willing to accept.

I'm adamantly opposed to mandatory wage and price controls. The Senator has endorsed mandatory wage and price controls. There is no authority for a President to impose mandatory wage and price controls. It is absolutely inconceivable that the Congress would pass any such legislation. So, in effect, that's a moot point. But I don't think there's any way that he and I could finally agree that we should or should not have wage and price controls of a mandatory nature.

So, if we word the platform or the mutual commitment on having as many jobs as possible for our people, protecting title VI CETA jobs, protecting a million summer youth jobs, having impact aid assistance for automobile workers and others laid off, adding $2 billion on for youth employment for a new program, those kind of things that I have proposed, I'm sure the Senator would espouse and would support. Whether he has additional proposals to make I don't know.

Q. Mr. President, can you win reelection without Senator Kennedy's support?

THE PRESIDENT. I think regardless of any foreseeable circumstance, yes, that I will win reelection.

Q. Do you have any reason to expect that he will tone down his personal criticism of you over the coming weeks and months?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I certainly would think that now that the heat of the primary campaign is over that the personal debates and so forth would be minimized, yes. That's my expectation.

Q. Did he say that or did you?

THE PRESIDENT. That's a judgment for him to make.

Q. Mr. President, did he renew his offer to withdraw in exchange for a debate?

THE PRESIDENT. No, he didn't.

Q. Mr. President, what do you think of the primaries on Tuesday and the fact that there was a very high rating by many people that they didn't like you or Mr. Reagan?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's obvious that when voters are asked, "Do you want Reagan or Carter or none of the above?" a lot of people are going to say at this point, "None of the above." And also, there's a profound difference in the attitude of voters in a primary campaign than in the general election.

In a primary campaign there's an excitement about it and an inclination to keep the contest going, to express displeasure about the inflation rate or about the unemployment rate or about Iran or about Afghanistan or about the transportation problems. Those things are ordinarily expressed, quite often expressed, by voters who cast their ballot against an incumbent.

But when the voter goes into the polling booth in November to choose a President for the next 4 years, to determine whether or not our Nation will be at peace or whether we might be at war, whether a President is going to have a better effect on the quality of life of that voter or an adverse effect over a long 4-year period, those kind of things become a very serious matter. And I think the frivolity that often is associated with a primary campaign season will not exist in November.

The choice is going to be between the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee, and I am convinced that the choice will be myself and that the voters will prove that I'm right.

Q. But, Mr. President, every indication that we polled indicates that if you are the nominee, the Democratic Party is going to be devastated?

THE PRESIDENT. That's not the case at all.

Q. Could I also ask you, did the Senator make the proposal that he and you would both withdraw in favor of another candidate?

THE PRESIDENT. No, he didn't make that proposal. And the presumption of your first question is erroneous.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 6:03 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks to Reporters on Signing the Message of Disapproval of the Public Debt Limit Extension Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252105

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