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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 31, 2001

President Bush Discusses Patients' Bill of Rights and Energy
The Oval Office

View the President's Remarks
Listen to the President's Remarks

2:53 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Mr. Secretary, Larry Lindsey, thank you for being here today. I'm signing an executive order, fulfilling a promise that I made that our federal agencies must lead the way for energy conservation.

One of the ways that our nation wastes energy is through what they call vampire devices. These will be a battery charger, cell phone chargers, computer systems that we -- we really think we're not using energy when plugged in but, in fact, are. And so we've set what we call a one-watt standard throughout the federal government, that we expect our agencies to be ridding themselves of the vampires and using energy conservation devices.

The Secretary of Energy has agreed to lead this project, and I'm so thankful for it. The federal government can be good stewards of our resources and we fully intend to be. There's an energy bill working its way through Congress which will encourage new technologies that will help save energy, that will call for research and development, to make sure that we're wise about how we use the scarce resources we have in America.

But it's also a bill that recognizes that, while on the one hand we must conserve, we also must find additional sources of energy, such as natural gas. And that's why I think it is very important for Congress to pass a balanced energy plan, one that includes the capacity to drill for, explore for and find natural gas throughout our entire country, including Alaska. And I'm confident we can do so in an environmentally friendly way.

I urge the members of the House of Representatives to support the energy bill that will include allowing for there to be a small amount of exploration in ANWR, that will yield a lot of energy on behalf of the people of America.

And so it's now my honor to sign this executive order and look forward to working with the Secretary, to show the nation -- to show the nation how best to use technologies to conserve energy.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

(The President signs the bill.)

I'd be glad to answer a few questions. Gregory, you look like you have something on your mind.

Q Mr. President, do you have a deal on a patients' bill of rights bill now with Congressman Norwood? Can you tell us what the outlines of that might be?

THE PRESIDENT: Congressman Norwood came into my office and he said, Mr. President, would you like to talk about the possibility of reaching an agreement on a patients' bill of rights? I said, you bet. After all, in a speech I gave early in my administration, I not only outlined the principles of a bill that would be unacceptable, I more importantly said I would like to see a piece of legislation that protects consumers and doesn't reward lawyers.

So he brought some ideas right here in the Oval Office. He felt like he needed to go back and discuss them with some of the bill sponsors -- senators and other members of the House of Representatives. I'm hopeful that he will shake the hand of accommodation that I put out for him, and I believe there's room for compromise and I'm more than willing to try to do so with him.

We don't have a specific deal yet, David, to answer your question, but we're making good progress.

Q What are you offering that you think will be acceptable?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm offering to sign a bill and not veto it. And that's pretty powerful incentive for someone to try to come up with an agreement. I will not sign a bill that I think will end up tossing people out of health insurance. And if we have too much litigation, if we encourage lawsuits, costly lawsuits, it could drive up the health care for people; it will drive people off the health care rolls; and it will make it very difficult for small business people to afford health care, and I'm deeply concerned about that.

Q Mr. President, today you received the election reforms report from President Carter and President Ford. If those reforms had been in place already, for the last election, do you think you'd be sitting in this room today?

THE PRESIDENT: It would have been a landslide. (Laughter.) Who know? But I do appreciate the report. I most appreciate that President Carter, himself, delivered the report to me. Former Congressman Michel, on behalf of President Ford, was here. I walked right out of the Oval Office, having gotten briefed, and stood in front of the American people and said, this is a very good report.

And there is a lot of positive things in it, including making sure that America's networks don't pre-judge elections by calling them too early. And there are a lot of other reforms in there that make sense. I urge Congress to take a good, close look at them.

I think it's very important to note that one of the principles involved in the Carter-Ford report was that the elections really are local; that the federal government should enable and help local jurisdictions develop practices that make sure every vote matters; practices that make sure that our voting rolls and registers and up to date -- you know, that people aren't registered three or four times across a state; that people who are eligible to vote are those who are the ones who should be voting.

But I was impressed by the report. I thought it had a lot of very serious recommendations. And I hope Congress takes it seriously.

Yes, Steve.

Q Mr. President, House Republican leaders say that they don't have enough votes for fast track, so they're going to have to delay action until September. Why is it proving so hard to get fast track?

THE PRESIDENT: Some people in America don't believe in free trade. Some folks believe that a protectionist policy would be best for our country's economy and the workers. I strongly disagree.

I think trade offers promise for people who want to find work. Trade is important to enhance the growth of small businesses. Trade is important in our own hemisphere. Trade has been important to make sure we've got good relations with Mexico. After all, we want our neighbors to do well; it's a neighborly way to think. And if Mexico and Canada do well, America will do well, as well. So trade is important. Trade is an important -- it's also an important part of making sure the world is more free.

But there are some who resist trade because they don't see its benefits. And my job, and the job of those of us who strongly see the benefits and know the benefits of free trade will continue to work hard until we get a piece of legislation that enables the President of the United States to make sure that America is involved in the world; that we don't miss out on opportunities for the working people of America to find jobs; that we don't miss out on the opportunities for our farmers and ranchers to find markets to feed people. We're the best in the world at growing crops.

And we need to make sure that our farmers and ranchers have the capacity to sell their product in overseas markets. It's to the benefit of our economy. It's a benefit to the people who take risk in America. I believe we'll get a trade promotion authority bill out. Whether or not we get it done before August is, obviously, you know, up in the air. But I believe when it's all said and done, that Congress will realize the benefits of free trade for the people of America.

Q What is your view of the kind of targeted attack the Israelis carried out on Hamas today? And do you plan to step up your involvement in the Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT: I spoke to King Abdullah of Jordan this morning. I was very much involved, continue to remain actively involved in the process. And step one, in order to get to Mitchell, is to break the cycle of violence.

As I told the King, His Majesty, all of us -- all of us have got to work together to convince both parties to stop the cycle. And, obviously, we've got a lot of work to do. But it is important to get to Mitchell. But the first step in getting into Mitchell is for there to be significantly reduced violence, and that's not the case right now.

And so all the world must continue to say to both sides, break the cycle of violence, and then we can get into the Mitchell process.

Obviously, I'm -- I wish the levels of violence were lower than they are today. A couple of weeks ago it looked like we had made progress, and then the violence spiked. That means that the United States will continue to stay actively involved and urging there to be calm, and urging both parties to resist the temptation to resort to violence.

END 3:01 P.M. EDT


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