For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 24, 2001
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer on President's Meeting with Senator John Mccain
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
6:10 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: All right, let me give you a read from the
President on the meeting with Senator McCain. The President said
it was a
very good session, a wide-ranging session, and he said he views John
as an ally on many issues up on the Hill. They discussed the
discussed tax relief; they discussed defense; they discussed energy;
they discussed campaign finance reform. And that's what I have.
Q Did the President indicate that he had in any way
his thinking on this since the two of them kind of discussed the issue
the South Carolina primaries?
MR. FLEISCHER: Since the South Carolina primaries -- I'm just
trying to remember, going back, to the position he took then. His
remains the same as it was then.
Q Senator McCain has suggested out there that President
has agreed to this shareholder protection aspect of the bill, if
McCain would agree to the paycheck protection.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this President has long held that people
should not have to have their money taken from them involuntarily,
they are shareholders in a corporation or whether they are members of a
labor union. He makes the distinction between that and
give of their own free will, and therefore, have a constitutionally
protected right to give money. But for people who otherwise --
taken involuntarily, whether they're shareholders, corporate employees
although in this case it's shareholders -- or members of unions.
President shares a concern about taking money involuntarily from people
through corporation ties.
Q Did the President, after talking with Senator McCain,
his position on any of the differences the two of them have, and did
Senator McCain indicate that he has changed his position at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think when the President's first reaction
is what a good session it was, it means that the process is beginning
for moving forward.
Q Is it safe to say, though, that minds were not changed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think we need to see two people who know
they have views that are substantially similar, with a couple
both emerge from a meeting saying they've had a good meeting, as
Bush put it, and cordial, as Senator McCain put it. The
process is beginning.
Q On those couple differences, was there anything, any
movement made that would close the gap? Did either one bend on
those couple differences?
MR. FLEISCHER: I just refer you to the President's words.
Q You can't report any achievement on resolving those
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's words I think are his reflections
on what the meeting meant.
Q But neither you or the President are reporting any
on closing the differences, closing the gap on those couple
MR. FLEISCHER: I happen to think that any time you can begin
three days into your term and have a meeting with somebody who
something that's important and something that many people think you're
apart, and it becomes clearer and clearer you're not so far apart, and
parties say it's a good meeting, then the process is beginning on the
Q Just one more follow-up. I just want to make sure
the talk out there and from here that I didn't miss any advances on
the differences that the two parties have.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I've addressed it as best I can.
Q -- that they begin to think in terms of timing, in terms
getting something done in the next couple of months?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have anything on the timing. I know
don't think from Senator McCain's point of view it's changed as far as
timing he's working out with Senator Lott.
Q What about from the President's point of view? You
substance was more important, we expect that to be more important, but
he willing to address the issue of timing now?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is more focused on the substance of
what should be in campaign finance reform.
Q But is he willing to address the issue? Did he and
Senator talk about the issue of timing, and is he willing to address
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have anything on timing.
Q McCain said that the President increased his own
understanding of some things that he had not previously reviewed as
campaign finance reform. Do you know what issues those are the
had not previously considered?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that -- that was Senator McCain
saying that the President's understanding of the McCain position was
Q Understanding of some issues he hadn't reviewed in the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President was just reflecting on the
manner in which Senator McCain described how his soft money ban would
Q In what way?
MR. FLEISCHER: The things the Senator described -- and I don't
have much more of a read than that from the President on how the soft
ban according to Senator McCain will work.
Q That ban still includes a ban on individual soft money,
which the President still opposes, correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President continues to believe that
individuals have a constitutionally protected right to give.
Q And McCain still continues to support that as part of
bill? There is still a ban on individual soft money in the
bill, so there is still a disagreement there, yes?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sure they're not in complete agreement.
I'm just going to take one or two more, because I really -- I've
given you the read I have from the President.
Q Did the subject of individual soft money even come up in
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what I have from the President.
Q And to follow up, did McCain agree to put paycheck
protection in --
MR. FLEISCHER: Did McCain agree to put paycheck protection in
his bill? No, I don't have anything on that, Ron.
Q In what way did it become clear --
Q Ari, the fact that they even held this meeting, is that
sign that campaign finance has risen on the President's agenda?
hadn't mentioned it as one of his top priorities before.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, he mentioned many issues that came up in
the meeting. Again, they talked about defense, they talked about
they talked about a variety of things. And particularly on pork
spending, I urge you to pay some attention there in the future.
I think campaign finance reform is an issue the President has
always highlighted. And, clearly, we have other priorities at
moment, including education, including prescription drugs, faith-based,
providing tax cutting. They had a good conversation about tax
Q Where does campaign finance rank in those priorities.
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't do linear rankings.
Q Thank you.
END 6:17 P.M. EST