For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 2, 2001
Press Briefing by
By Ari Fleischer
Mary Gall Nomination........................................3-4
Incident at Southwest Gate....................................5
Patients' Bill of Rights..............................5-7;12-15
Middle East Developments....................................7-9
Civil Rights Laws............................................10
Base Closing Commissions.....................................18
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release August 2, 2001
the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:10 P.M. EDT
FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I have a very lengthy
list of nominations the President is making today, and so I would like
to go through that with a little bit of background word on it as
well. And then I want to give a preview of something the
President will do shortly at his education event later -- early this
President intends to nominate Pamela Hyde Smith to be Ambassador to the
Republican of Moldova. The President intends to nominate the
following 12 individuals to serve as United States
attorneys: Susan Brooks with the Southern District of
Indiana; Leura Canary, for the Middle District of Alabama; Colm
Connolly for the District of Delaware; Tom Gean for the Western
District of Arkansas; Raymond Gruender for the Eastern District of
Missouri; Roscoe Howard Jr. for the District of Columbia; David
Iglesias for the District of New Mexico; Charles Larson Sr. for the
Northern District of Iowa; Matthew Mead for the District of Wyoming;
Michael Sullivan for the District of Massachusetts; Drew Wrigley for
the District of North Dakota; and Joseph Van Bokkelen for the Northern
District of Indiana.
addition, the President intends to nominate the following 16
individuals to serve as members of the Federal
Judiciary: Jeffrey Howard to be United States Circuit Judge
of the First Circuit; Terrence L. O'Brien of Wyoming, United States
Circuit Judge for the 10th District; Karon O. Bowdre for the Northern
District of Alabama; Callie Virginia Smith Granade of Alabama for the
Southern District of Alabama; David Bunning to be United States Judge
for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Karen Caldwell for the Eastern
District of Kentucky; Danny Reeves of Kentucky for the Eastern District
of Kentucky; Kurt Engelhart for the Eastern District of Louisiana;
Larry Hicks for the District of Nevada; Cristina Armijo of New Mexico
for the District of New Mexico; William Johnson for the District of New
Mexico, Claire Eagan for the Northern District of Oklahoma; Stephen
Friot for the Western District of Oklahoma, Joe Heaton of Oklahoma for
the Western District of Oklahoma; James Payne for the Northern Eastern
Western District of Oklahoma, and Lawrence Block, Judge on the U.S.
Court of Federal Claims.
Q Who is the Northeastern District of Alabama
FLEISCHER: The judge.
Q Is Dave Bunning the Senator's -- related to
FLEISCHER: I'll have to get -- additional biographical
information will be coming out; right now I don't have that right
here. Having walked through these nominations, let me sum up where the
President stands on judicial nominations at this point into the year.
President has now made 44 federal, circuit and district court
nominations prior to the Senate's August recess. That breaks
the previous records, it surpasses the nominations made by Presidents
Clinton, Bush and Reagan at this point into their tenure. By
the August recess of their first year in Office, President Reagan had
made 13 nominations to the Circuit and Judicial Court, former President
Bush had made eight, President Clinton had made 13.
President Bush submitted his first 11 nominations on May 9th, two
months prior to either President Reagan, Bush or Clinton having made
their first. In the past three administrations, there has
been a very longstanding bipartisan tradition of nominees for names
prior to the August recess being confirmed in the first year of their
presidencies, with only one exception to that, in the case of one
Consistent with that bipartisan history, the President hopes and urges
that the Senate will move forward and act on all 44 of his nominations
word about an upcoming presidential event. The President
will meet early this afternoon with House and Senate members of the
Conference Committee on Education, a bipartisan group. This
meeting comes on the same day that the National Assessment of
Educational Progress, NAEP, released its new scores. The
math scores released today show that only a quarter of fourth and
eighth graders are proficient in math. The results also
indicate that the President's education reform that is pending in the
Congress is the right approach to improve our nation's schools.
fact, the results released this morning by NAEP show that students in
Texas and North Carolina, where education reform was a bipartisan
centerpiece of governors' agendas, those are the states in which
education reform -- results in those states show that students in North
Carolina and Texas lead the nation in mathematics achievement and
improvement, as well as reducing the gap in learning between African
American students and white students. So the President is
very heartened by these results. He will be talking about
them himself at the event later this afternoon.
Q The NAEP scores, are they just for math today,
or are there others?
FLEISCHER: No, it's an extensive listing of
scores. We can get you the background on it at the
President's event. It is a very detailed and scholarly
walk-through of test results across the nation.
Q On the Gall nomination, does the White House
have the authority to strip the current chairman of her chairmanship?
FLEISCHER: I am not going to get into any speculation about
any additional action on this topic. Suffice it to say the
President was disappointed in the vote today by the democrats on the
Senate Commerce Committee. Mary Gall did not lose today;
bipartisanship lost today because the very same Democratic senators who
voted for Mary Gall when President Clinton nominated her voted against
her today, simply because George Bush nominated her. And the
President thinks that's unwise and unfortunate.
Q I wasn't asking for a reaction. I
was asking, does the -- technically, does the White House have the
ability to strip a chairman out of --
FLEISCHER: I'm just not going to speculate about other
issues involving this vote.
Q This isn't speculation. Either you
do or you don't have the ability to take the job away from the current
FLEISCHER: The focus of the White House at this moment is on
the vote and what that vote signals for bipartisanship. Any
other events will come, if they come, at a later time.
Q Are you consulting -- considering your
options? What about Mary Gall and the future of Mary Gall as
a potential one day chair of this commission?
FLEISCHER: The White House is working with the Senators who
support her on what steps are best to take next. Those
conversations are ongoing. And if we have more to report,
I'll indicate that at the appropriate time.
Q Is there anyone at the White House who can say
what the scope of executive authority is, whether or not the executive
has the authority to strip the Chairman of the powers?
FLEISCHER: Again, it's just not a question I'm speculating
about at this time.
Q It's a legal question. Is there
anybody who can answer that in the White House what the scope --
FLEISCHER: The White House is focused right now on the vote,
and the meeting -- the White House is focused right now on the vote and
on the meeting of the vote. Any other events will come in
Q Can you take the question though, Ari, and get
back to us, because it seems like a legitimate question.
FLEISCHER: Yes, I'll be happy to do that.
Q Does that mean you hope to have a vote in the
full Senate -- that somehow you hope to muster enough support or find
some way to get a vote on the full Senate Floor, despite the way the
Committee voted today?
FLEISCHER: That's one of the topics that the White House is
talking to Senators about, whether there are any prospects to move for
it and go to the Floor, especially given the fact that you had so many
Democrat Senators vote for her previously. Perhaps this is a
phenomenon limited to just the Commerce Committee. The White
House will continue to review with our allies in the Senate where to
proceed, how to proceed next. No determination has been made.
Q How do you assess those prospects?
FLEISCHER: I think it's hard to say. I think it
depends on whether the Senate wants to be known as an institution where
the Democratic senators in this case flip-flopped, voted against
somebody they previously voted for in an action that suggests to the
American people the Senate is more interested in partisanship than
Q Ari, are you aware of what is happening in the
back, at the Southwest Gate right now?
Q What's going on?
FLEISCHER: At the Southwest Gate, a dog made a contact with
a vehicle, in terms of the sniffing the dogs do when the vehicles enter
the grounds. Apparently, it was a false alarm and it has all
been cleared up.
Q But is there a concern that these dogs are
sniffing falsely? (Laughter.) I mean, seriously -- no,
seriously. The Secret Service relies on these dogs and they
are sniffing things that just don't turn out to be
something. Is there a concern at the White House about
retraining or finding another way to find out organic substances?
FLEISCHER: I think it is all part of the security procedures
at the White House where I think people are very understanding of the
need to have tight security at the White House. And the
procedures put in place by the Secret Service are among the very best
in the world, even though false alarms do take place.
Q Since that was right outside of the Oval
Office area, was the President moved at any time?
FLEISCHER: I haven't gotten any information about that.
Q Ari, on patients' bill of rights, there was a
blistering attack on the agreement between the President and Norwood
this morning from Representative Ganske and Dingell, Andrews, and
others, saying that, one, no one knows what is in this bill; two, that
it is probably unconstitutional, given some previous decisions about
federal law taking precedent over state law; and that there are
innumerable questions about how this would work legally.
the White House have anything to say to try to clear up what appears to
be confusion, even on the part of Republicans?
FLEISCHER: Let me make a couple points. One is,
the White House is very satisfied with the agreement in several
aspects. One, that it will pave the way to getting a
patients' bill of rights enacted into law for the first time in seven
years that Congressman Norwood has been working on the
issue. Two, the White House is satisfied that it is fully
legal and in accordance with the constitution. And, three,
in an effort to be helpful to reporters, to answer more of your
technical and substantive questions, we are going to make one of the
lawyers who worked on it available later this afternoon for a
background briefing so she can get into depth on any of the substantive
matters you raise.
Q Do you know when and where that will be held?
FLEISCHER: We're looking right now at around the 2:30 p.m.,
3:00 p.m. time frame, most likely in my office.
Q But your level of confidence about the vote
today, while it seemed very, very high yesterday and even this morning,
there were other people watching the vote within the administration who
think it's going to be very tight and that it's not at all clear at
this point whether even all of the Republicans are on board.
have information to clear that up?
FLEISCHER: The White House continues to be optimistic that
the vote will pass.
Q The Ganske --
Q So -- well, but there are people who are
really sweating this thing out. Do you have information that
tells you that all the Republicans are on board for sure?
FLEISCHER: Obviously not all the Republicans are on board.
I think there was one gentleman that was mentioned here that may not
be. But the White House is confident that will pass, and as always,
the White House keeps an eye on important votes.
Q Ganske says that they sent a letter up here a
week ago when the White House first floated the idea of federal law
ruling all of these cases. And they sent back a page and a
half of questions about how it would work legally. Is that,
in fact, the case, and did the White House respond in any way to try to
get people on board?
FLEISCHER: As I've just indicated, the White House is fully
satisfied that all matters in this legislation are in accordance with
all laws, and I think that will be made clear to you at the background
briefing later today.
Q Well, I know you're satisfied; my question was
whether or not -- they clearly are not satisfied, and I was wondering
if the White House had taken any effort to -- they say they sent up a
list of questions saying, look, here are all of the questions we have
about how this would work legally and logistically. Did the
White House send back any kind of response? Was there some
effort to answer some of those questions?
FLEISCHER: I'll try to get you an answer specifically on
that one letter at the background briefing.
Q Ari, there are reports from the Middle East
saying that many of the countries that are really -- are girding for
war, that there is a fear that the Israelis, given the situation, will
either go in to occupy the West Bank or possibly try and throw the
Palestinians into Jordan, potentially destabilizing the Jordan
the role of the United States there, isn't it time -- and the ability
only of the U.S., either alone or in combination, to do something to
change the dynamic of the present situation in the Middle East, aren't
the alarm bells going off at the White House, and isn't there a
possibility of, for instance, international monitors being sent to the
region to try and stave off a greater war situation?
FLEISCHER: Number one, I'm not going to get into
hypotheticals, but the position of the administration is as it's been
from the very beginning. The administration, of course, is
very concerned about the events in the Middle East and the surge in the
violence there. That is why it's so important for the
parties to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations so that the
cease-fire can take hold and they can move to the next steps of
securing political peace in the region.
question of monitors, the President has said and the Secretary of State
have said that monitors are a part of the second stage of the Mitchell
Committee recommendations. The first stage still has to be
implemented, which is securing of a cease-fire. But if the
parties were to agree to monitors, that is something the United States
Q But, Ari, that -- I mean, with respect, that's
an answer you've been giving consistently. But when the
violence reaches a stage where it's at now, where it's so bad, does the
administration not consider any kind of sort of stop the bleeding
mechanisms to get Mitchell back on track again?
FLEISCHER: There is one mechanism to stop the violence, and
that is for the parties to stop the violence. The United
States cannot force the parties to stop. The United States
can help facilitate a process so that the parties come to their own
agreements to stop, and that's the efforts of this administration.
Q But the pressure doesn't seem to be working
very well. I mean, the admonitions aren't working very
well. And that reality -- I mean, your reality is you're
painting it of being the case, nevertheless, can the administration at
least consider doing something a little bit more proactive?
FLEISCHER: Again, the administration is
proactive. The administration has been working directly with
the parties. And fundamentally, this remains an issue for
the parties themselves to come into agreement with the help of the
United States. And that's the position the President will
take to help those nations and help those regions, that help the
parties come into peace.
Q And in the teeth of your admonitions, the
Sharon government has stepped up its violence, its proactive attacks on
Palestinian leaders. Is that out of line?
FLEISCHER: Terry, it's reflective of the overall level of
violence in the Middle East. And that is exactly why
President Clinton created the impetus for the Mitchell Committee
recommendations. And the Senator Mitchell, having gone to
the region and met repeatedly with the parties involved, came out with
this series of recommendations which have widely been heralded and
accepted. And the only way to stop the violence is for the
parties to stop shooting at each other, and that includes Israel.
Q Isn't the Sharon government defying the
President and defying the administration's calls?
FLEISCHER: Terry, it's not an international question of who
in the Middle East is defying who internationally. It's a
question of what is happening on the ground in the Middle East to
secure a cease-fire. And that's where the President's focus
Q Has the President had any contact with Prime
Minister Sharon over the past several days?
FLEISCHER: He has not talked to him in the last several
Q If the cease-fire is what the President wants,
there doesn't seem to be much progress in that
direction. What's he doing to get it?
FLEISCHER: He cannot force the parties. He can be
a facilitator, which is the role the United States is playing here.
Q With no apparent effect?
Q Another follow-up. This might sound
selfish, in view of what the people on the ground are going through,
but if there is an all-out war, is there a mechanism in place to
prevent an Arab oil boycott, as we experienced --
FLEISCHER: I'm not going to deal with hypothetical of that
Q This -- I just wondered if there is a
FLEISCHER: That's the definition of a hypotheticals.
Q Ari, does the President support Senator
Santorum's announcement that he would drop provisions on the
faith-based bill that were -- that sparked controversy on the House
FLEISCHER: The President is heartened to see the beginnings
of action in the Senate on the faith-based initiative. When
he met with Senator Santorum and he met with Senator Lieberman in the
Oval Office, he commended them for their willingness to proceed and he
will continue to work with the Senate on their legislation.
not going to comment on every detail of the drafting
stages. But the President is pleased they are moving
Q One report was saying the President was
willing to increase funding for the legislation. Can you
comment on that at all?
FLEISCHER: Well, he is going to work with the Congress on
the faith-based initiative. The level of funding in the
House-passed bill in terms of the amount of deductions for -- tax
deductions for charitable giving was not the level the President
sought. If the Senate were to increase that level, I think
you would see receptivity from the White House.
most of that bill is not a money bill. Most of that bill is
empowering faith-based communities to solve problems within their
districts, within their communities, within their regions, because they
would no longer be discriminated against when the government provides
grants. That is the essence and the core of that
bill. The President calls it "unleashing the armies of
charitable giving provision, which is directly tied to money, is an
important aspect of it, but there are many other important aspects as
Q Senator Santorum had the President's support
in what he outlined the other day.
FLEISCHER: As I indicated, the President is going to work
with the Senate and the President is going to let the Senate work its
will, and the President is encouraged to let them move forward.
Q Does he disagree or agree with what Senator
FLEISCHER: The President is going to be pleased to watch the
Senate move forward so we can get an agreement in the
conference. On the question specifically that you are asking
about this deals with the civil rights laws, the President said in
response to a reporter's question when he was asked about this, he
wants to make certain that nothing undermines the current civil rights
Q Did Senator Santorum talk with the President
or any White House staff before he said what he said the other day?
FLEISCHER: Oh, he talked to the President directly about
this in the Oval Office. So, too, did Senator
Lieberman. And Senator Lieberman and Senator Santorum said
upon leaving that they were encouraged by the conversation with the
President, they think they will be able to work with the President, the
President believes he will be able to work with them, but I am not
going to comment on every detail of every stage along the way.
President is going to continue to work with the Senate and is
encouraged by the efforts that they are making broadly.
Q Ari, the President said he wants to support
all the U.S. civil rights laws. You said more broadly in
terms of all civil rights laws; is there a distinction there?
FLEISCHER: No, I'm talking about federal laws.
Q Not state and local laws, which are the ones
at issue in this provision?
FLEISCHER: The President's statement -- and I heard Senator
Lieberman say it as well -- that we have to honor the civil rights
laws, the federal civil rights laws.
Q Lieberman said we should honor all civil
rights laws, including state and local.
FLEISCHER: Yes, then that question, I think that is
something that is going to go to conference and the President is going
to work productively with the members of the conference. He
wants to get agreement on a faith-based bill that is in accordance with
the federal civil rights laws.
Q Ari, the central question which underlies all
of this is, which is, will the President support any legislation that
would require faith-based institutions to adhere to state and local
anti-discrimination laws which they disagree with? Because,
according to them, they are not going to become armies of compassion if
they have to adhere to state and local ordinances on
anti-discrimination that they disagree with. Can you resolve
that central question?
FLEISCHER: The President is going to work with Congress as
this evolves. And I think you can take whatever inference
you want from that, but the President has made it clear that he's going
to work with Congress as this matter evolves. He's very
encouraged that movement is taking place on this very important
Q But can't you give us some sense of the
position? So if that means that if they come to him and say,
yes, we want to adhere to all civil rights laws, even local, that he'll
go along with that, or would he --
FLEISCHER: I think it's important to let the Senate take up
the bill and let it come to the Floor of the Senate, and let's see what
the exact language is and how the Senate's proposing. It's
still a little early in the Senate.
Q But he can't stake out a position on that
FLEISCHER: That's the President's position now.
Q If the nondiscrimination act becomes law,
would he then also want this to adhere to that?
FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get out ahead of the
Senate. I think it's important to let the Senate work its
will, and the President will take a look at the legislation when the
specifics are available in the Senate and he'll share whatever can be
shared at that time.
Q Ari, can I ask you two more questions on
patients' bill of rights? First, a number of the members up
there, Republican and Democrat, believe that the deal struck between
Norwood and the President would abrogate state laws on patients' bill
of rights. Is that the White House understanding?
FLEISCHER: Yes, and I think you can get into a good
discussion of that at the background briefing. But there are
a number of preemption issues here, and as you know, the President was
very concerned about states such as Texas that passed a strong
patients' bill of rights, and he wanted to make certain that any
federal action did not harm patients and consumers in a state like
Texas. And the legislation agreed to yesterday by
Congressman Norwood and the President continues to honor the principle
the President established about respecting states' rights on patients'
bill of rights.
Q So he doesn't believe that it would not
abrogate state laws?
FLEISCHER: There are a certain series of preemptions in
there, and I'll -- the President is satisfied that his principles have
been fulfilled when it comes to states that have patients' bill of
rights. And you can get into detail about that in the
Q The second question is, a lot of these people
were saying, look, they're trying to gauge the ramifications of this,
and having federal law govern all of these things, and some of the
preemption questions you're talking about, as well as other things,
requires time for people to look at this and consider it and digest
it. Some people are even suggesting they should wait until
September. Is any delay of any kind, even a couple of days
warranted in the view of the White House?
FLEISCHER: It's just interesting how the very same people
who were criticizing the Speaker of the House last week when he
indicated for one brief day that he might put this off until the fall
are now urging the Speaker to put it off until the fall, while they
criticized him last week for that.
know, this is what typically happens in a legislative cycle when people
aren't willing to compromise. They start looking to any
reason they can to complain about any compromise, to complain about an
agreement, because they no longer support it. I've heard
that on many pieces of legislation where people voted against
it. You never hear that from the people who support it.
Q This is straightforward and simple enough that
people ought to be able to understand it in a morning; I mean, it's not
so complicated that they need more time?
FLEISCHER: I think the terms of this agreement are very
clear to the members, that are available for them to
review. And this is the typical way in which the House and
Senate do their business, and the President is very pleased that the
House of Representatives is on the threshold of passing a strong,
powerful patients' bill of rights that protects consumers and does so
in a way that doesn't drive up health care.
Q Ari, you've depicted this as a first step in
terms of getting this agreement out of the House and into
conference. Is the administration open to revisiting these
issues once it's in conference if this turns out to be a question --
FLEISCHER: I'll be prepared to talk about conference after
this passes the House. And so let's first let it pass the
House, and let the process take its due course.
Q Ari, I'm sorry if this has been asked and
maybe answered. On the patients' bill of rights, is the President only
working with Republicans on this? It seems that is the
FLEISCHER: No, the President has worked with a number of
Democrats on this. He held a meeting here at the White
House, if you recall, where about a dozen Democrats came
down. But the President is interested --
Q How far back?
FLEISCHER: That was probably about three or four
weeks. The President is interested in assembling a majority
behind a bill that will get signed into law. And that is how
our constitutional system works. The President hopes that
many Democrats will be a part of that bipartisan majority.
the end of today, there will be a majority in support of a patients'
bill of rights that is one that is agreed to the President and
Congressman Norwood. The President hopes that will be a
bipartisan majority. But at the end of the day, there will
be a bipartisan majority, and there will be a more partisan
minority. The President is pleased that something can be
passed by a bipartisan majority and signed into law.
Q Ari, just following up on that point, though,
FLEISCHER: Is there no seat for the Los Angeles Times in
its duly honored, close to the front row position?
Q Ari, just following up on that point though,
which you addressed a little bit in gaggle this morning --
Q I'm in --
Q -- which Keith sort of brought up, which is
that you are interested in obviously getting a majority, interested in
bipartisanship, changing the tone in Washington, why not kind of try
and get Norwood to go to Ganske and Dingell and get sort
of agreement, and then really strike sort of a bipartisan
compromise? Why -- was there a sense of the clock ticking --
or why not go the extra mile to get that?
FLEISCHER: I think when the vote takes place today, you will
see whether or not the Democrats choose to be partisan or
bipartisan. I think there's a real question about whether
the House Democrat leadership wants their members to support
this. There are a lot of indications that, particularly on
the Democrat side, they're more interested in pursuing a veto and
keeping a political issue alive than they are in protecting patients.
Q But, Ari, that may be true. But
what's also true is that you peeled the Republican away from the rest
of the pack, which included
Democrats, to get your deal. You didn't bring the
Democrats in on it, you peeled off a Republican, right?
FLEISCHER: The President is very proud that he and
Congressman Norwood, who has longstanding been a champion of patient
rights, have ended in an agreement that Congressman Norwood, in his
judgment, believed protects the patients.
our system begins with majorities being assembled in the House and the
Senate, and that's what has now happened. And I want to
remind you that, in the past, patient bill of rights died in the
Senate. They weren't even able to win sufficient support to pass that
institution under its rules.
you have a case where both the House and the Senate will take an action
on a patient bill of rights. And what's important now is
that people recognize that the President meant it when he said he will
veto anything that will drive up the cost of health care and make
people lose their insurance.
a result, our nation now stands much closer to actually getting
something done and signed into law because of the compromise reached by
Congressman Norwood. Democrats may not want to go along with
a compromise because they prefer a veto. That's the
prerogative, but that would be unfortunate.
Q What would be the harm of waiting a little bit
to let people digest this. I mean, they are just getting the
language today. What would be the harm in
waiting? After all, when you got the election reform report,
you made the very point, I think, that you didn't endorse any of these
principles because, you know, important decisions need time, you need
time to be deliberative. Shouldn't House members have the
same right with this very important legislation?
FLEISCHER: And I also said that we have all seen the House
and Senate work before in the fashions that they believe are best for
those institutions and those are decisions that are made by the
leadership of the House, as they schedule votes. And the
President, as I indicated, said whether it happens today, whether it
happens tomorrow, whether it happens next month, it's important that it
get done. If the judgment of the leadership of the House is
that it can get done today, the President will accept that judgment.
Q So you wouldn't mind a delay,
then? You wouldn't mind waiting a couple days or even until
FLEISCHER: No, basically what I said is the President is not
the scheduler of the House of Representatives.
Q What you were implying in your response to
Kelly's question was that there was no way you were going to get the
Democrats to participate in an agreement acceptable to the President
because they were more interested in forcing the issue to a
veto? Is that what you're saying? Is that what
the President believes?
FLEISCHER: I think the vote today will be very reflective
about whether Democrats were free to vote a vote of conscience or
whether they were voting because the Leadership asked them to vote
against a patient bill of rights. There is no question that
some Democrats have said they would rather have a political issue and
they would rather have a veto. And that has unfortunately been the
history of Washington for too many years.
President's message to the Congress was, let's get a compromise in the
House of Representatives that can muster majority
support. And, after all, I remember when I worked in the
House of Representatives and the Democrats were able to put together
majorities. They were pleased to assemble their majorities, and
Republicans were in the minority at that time. They were
pleased to assemble their majorities, and Republicans were in the
minority at that time. And I don't remember very many
questions about, why didn't you work with the Republicans, why isn't a
majority good enough?
majority, a bipartisan majority, even if it's a small one, is powerful,
and it's a recognition that the Congress wants to work with the
President to get a patients' bill of rights enacted into
law. The President hopes that many Democrats will vote for
it. But it's the Democrats decision, and it's the Democrats
call whether they want to be a part of a partisan minority or a
Q Which Democrats specifically has said they'd
prefer a partisan issue and a veto over --
FLEISCHER: There's no question I've seen quotes from
Senators that said that they want to get something done, but if they
loose, we have an issue.
Q Ari, what's your definition of
bipartisan? Like would one Democrat qualify this as a bi --
(laughter) -- no, I meant --
FLEISCHER: There are party line votes. I think
it's no question that there may be some Republicans who do not support
this. There will be a few Democrats, perhaps a bigger number
of Democrats, who support the President. But at the end of
the day, there will be a majority assembled. And this
majority will support a compromise that helps protects
patients. It may be a slim party line vote. We'll
see what the vote is. But still, at the end of the day, a majority is
how you get things done in America. And if there's no
majority, there's no patients' bill of rights.
Q On two issues near the President's heart,
faith-based and the energy bill the House just passed. On
faith-based, he proposed $86 billion in taxes; he got $8.6
billion. Now on energy, he proposed $10 billion, and the
House passed $33.5 billion in tax credits. Is the President
at all disturbed about this allocation of priorities by the House, that
tax credits for those charitable giving are so much smaller than he
proposed, but tax credits to major American industries -- energy
industries -- are so much larger than he proposed?
one. Number two, is that $33.5 billion number too high?
FLEISCHER: It's a recognition that the Congress is not a
rubber stamp. The President proposes and the Congress
disposes, and that's the way it's always been in our
republic. Even when presidents had overwhelmingly large
majorities in the House or in the Senate, the House and the Senate are
not the presidents' rubber stamps. They work their will, and
they vote as they see fit.
President would have preferred more funding for the faith-based
initiative. The number the President submitted on the energy
package was different from what the House passed, and so too were the
priorities of the President, in terms of those tax provisions on
said that, the President is very pleased that, for the first time in
many a year the nation is heading toward a strong energy policy that
will reduce our dependence on foreign supplies of
oil. Whether that bill is a hundred percent reflective of
what the President wanted or whether it's 80 to 85 percent is less
important than the fact that progress is being made and that the
President welcomes the progress.
Q Where is the money going to come from?
Q Will he do anything to reduce that tax credit
number? Does he in any way believe it is either fiscally
irresponsible too generous to any of the industries in the country?
FLEISCHER: Well, obviously, as we talk about here with other
issues, this bill just passed the House, to the House's credit, and
bipartisan credit. Now we'll see what the Senate
does. The Senate has to speak. And then it will
go to a conference committee.
always with the legislative process, there's room for compromise, room
for give and take. The President is going to continue to
work productively with Congress on that issue. But it was an
overwhelming -- it was a strong bipartisan vote in the House of
Representatives, and that's important to be acknowledged.
Q Is there room for that kind of money in the
budget? Where would that money come
from? Medicare, Social Security?
FLEISCHER: Room for money to come from on which?
Q Room for $33 billion worth of additional tax
breaks. If that kind of package were to become law, what
would happen to the budget? Would Medicare get raided, as it
said? Would Social Security get raided?
FLEISCHER: Well, obviously, given the fact that the
President proposed a budget that had a $1.6-trillion tax cut in it, and
the version passed by the Congress was closer to $1.25 trillion, there
is plenty of room in the budget to fund the President's priorities --
in education, in increased defense spending -- while saving every penny
of Social Security for Social Security and to meet our nation's
Q Ari, any additional tax cuts, though, would be
outside of the reconciliation process, as you know, which means they'd
have to be paid for, which means that $33.5 billion would have to be
paid for. Where are you going to find the offsets,
particularly given OMB is coming out with a mid-session review showing
declining budget surpluses? Where is the money going to come
from? And it has to be paid for.
FLEISCHER: Two points. It appears that the nation
is on track to have the second largest surplus in
history. So while it may not be as large as the largest in
history, it's as large as the second largest in
history. It's another way of saying the surplus will no
longer be gargantuan, it will be immense. As for the
pay-fors, under the Senate rules, it is not considered under
reconciliation. But under Senate rules, if somebody wants to
make a Budget Act point of order and have it lie against the bill, they
have that prerogative. It will require 60 votes, and the
Senate is very familiar with the procedures it needs. So the
Senate will work its will.
Q So do you think it's okay to have a
super-majority, if needed, to --
FLEISCHER: I am saying it is always important to work within
the rules, and the Senate will work its will within the rules.
Q Ari, in the past, base-closing commissions
have been comprised of members chosen by the President and
Congress. Now there is a call for Congress to create a new
commission with members appointed only by the President. Is
that the White House view and what is your current thinking about a
FLEISCHER: DOD will be briefing on this a little bit later
about what the proposal entails. But there were a number of
concerns brought to the attention of the administration and the
administration is going to listen to those concerns and work with
Congress on the terms of any potential commission. So the
administration is still going to work, to listen, and is open to
Q So you are listening to criticisms from
Congress and are not necessarily determined to go ahead with something
where the President would only appoint -- only the President would
appoint the members?
FLEISCHER: The President does want to go ahead -- and he
will -- in proposing a structure to have Congress consider the next
round of how to use defense money wisely in terms of the number of
bases and facilities our nation needs. In the process of
doing that, he is going to listen to some constructive ideas from the
Congress. And when the President submits the legislation,
you will be able to judge for yourself where that question lies.
Q A growing number of pro-family groups have
joined several medical organizations, calling for the removal of Dr.
Coughlin as head of the CDC, because for 10 years he withheld
information on the fighting of STDs, including human papilloma
virus. Does the President have a position on this and will
there be a review?
FLEISCHER: I don't have anything for you on that issue.
Q On the issue of Congress disposing -- there
are coming up a number of nominations, individuals associated, deeply
associated with the Iran-Contra scandal. I was wondering, is
the President confident that they are going to pass muster when they
come before the Senate?
FLEISCHER: Well, obviously nothing is happening -- we don't
know the exact timing of what they are going to do and when they are
going to do it, but the President hopes that the Senate will pass those