Hispanic Leadership Forum
June 9, 2001
Remarks by the Vice President at the Hispanic Leadership Forum
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: He's back getting ready for his first central European trip. He's off to a NATO summit next week and doing his responsibility as the President to go and meet with our European friends and allies, and that's how he's going to spend next week.
And this weekend he's cramming for all of those meetings that he's got coming up. But he'll do good work, I'm sure, and he said he trusted me to come to Florida on my own because I was going to be accompanied by Jeb and he knew I couldn't get in too much trouble with anything.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: But we care a great deal, obviously, about your community. Hispanic Americans have become an increasingly important part of the country. We see it every day not only in neighborhoods across Florida but all across America.
The President and I believe very deeply in the ideas and the principles that everybody in the nation deserves a chance to work and succeed and to rise in our world, and we're doing everything we can in this administration to make certain that those opportunities are there for virtually everybody in our society.
Two days ago I had the privilege to sit on the stage and watch as President Bush signed the first really significant piece of tax legislation, tax reduction, in a generation.
It's only the third time since the end of World War II that we've had across the board tax relief. The first time was John F. Kennedy in the early '60s. The second time was Ronald Reagan in 1981, and the third time now under George W. Bush in 2001.
It's the biggest tax relief in over 20 years. It provides a tax break for everybody who pays taxes, which was unique. Oftentimes in the past we haven't done that.
It's important, too, I think, for people to remember how we got to that point. When the President started during the course of the campaign two years ago recommending a significant package of tax reform, a lot of the experts said, "Bad idea. The American people aren't really interested in it. It doesn't show up in the polls as a significant issue."
As he went through the campaign, he got a lot of advice to drop off of it. He refused to do that. We went through the very close election and the long recount and again advice saying, "Well, you won but obviously you're going to have to give up your basic fundamental principles with respect to tax reform."
He said, "Absolutely not. The first thing I'm going to do is submit a piece of tax legislation to Congress." He's done it now. And in less than five months, less time than it took Ronald Reagan to pass his 20 years ago, he's signed the most significant tax cut in a generation.
It does a lot of things. It raises the child credit across the board. It cuts rates across the board, not only in the bottom end but also at the top end of the scale. It will significantly reduce the tax burden so that it will provide incentives to people to work harder and save more and invest more.
It will provide more opportunities for everybody as well, too. It is a very significant piece of tax reform legislation.
Among other things, it gets rid of the death tax so that small businesses, farms and ranches will be able to pass on to the next generation those things that you've worked for all your life to build and create without having Uncle Sam come in and take 55 percent of it in taxes the second time around.
There are a lot of other problems to work on, though. Our next major priority and one of the top priorities during the course of the campaign was education.
When I return to Washington next week, it will be to preside over the Senate and hopefully have the opportunity to cast a tie-breaking vote, should that be necessary. You may not be aware that that's my only duty.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: When they wrote the Constitution and they decided they needed a vice president, they couldn't think of anything for him to do, so they made him the president of the Senate. And then they gave me the right to cast a tie-breaking vote, which I've done twice so far this year.
The first vice president, John Adams, also had floor privileges. He was allowed to make speeches on the floor, and then he did one day and they withdrew the floor privileges.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I'm not allowed to speak, but I do get to vote. But when we go back, the Senate will be engaged hot and heavy in the debate over education. We've already got the education bill passed through the House of Representatives. It's the most significant education reform package in 35 years.
It should be completed in the Senate within the next week or two and then will go to conference between the House and Senate and pass that as well, too.
In many respects it parallels what Jeb and you have done here in Florida in terms of emphasizing accountability, testing, flexibility and local control, setting high standards.
We think it's absolutely essential to get on with the business of education reform. There's probably no more important subject in America.
We're going to make certain that everybody in our society has the opportunity to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that exist and to make certain that no child is ever left behind.
So education is front and center, and that will be the next major piece of legislation completed. And with luck, I think we'll have it all wrapped up by the Fourth of July.
The President and I also spent some time on immigration. We know that's an important subject to a great many people. The President believes that immigration is not a problem to be solved, but rather the sign of a successful nation.
The fact that so many people want to come to live and prosper in America is a mark of its success and the hallmark of our history for the last 200 years.
We strongly support extending Section 245(i), allowing people to file for legal residency without first having to return to their country of origin. We think this will spare many families the hardship that goes along with separations.
The President also has proposed a strong reorganization of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, setting up a six month standard for processing applications for immigration, and also separating the INS into two separate agencies, one for enforcement but the other to provide service organization for immigrants who need help.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: President Reagan had a fascinating saying that I was always struck by. He said, "You know, you can go to France but you won't become French. You can go to China but you won't be Chinese. But you can come to America and be an American."
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: To succeed in America what counts is not your background or your heritage or your family status or even where you came from. What counts is your willingness to work hard, to save and invest, to persevere.
We are very fortunate to live in a land of such great hope and so many opportunities. All of us need to work hard every day and remind ourselves that we have an obligation to future generations to preserve the American dream.
Americans of tomorrow, whether they're born here or whether they arrive from another land, have the same right to take care of that opportunity as we look to future generations.
We believe in the promise of America. We believe in the possibilities of every single American. Thank you very much for having us.
A PARTICIPANT: Now we're going to open it up to your comments and questions, but before I do that I want to introduce your Congressman. Ric Keller is here with us.
A PARTICIPANT: One of Ric's colleagues in the Florida delegation to the House of Representatives, Mark Foley, is here as well.
A PARTICIPANT: This is really for the Vice President, and if you've got any state issues, of course the governor will hear from you. Vice President Cheney promised to answer all the tough questions and leave the softball questions for the rest of the panel.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: But I didn't mean it.
A PARTICIPANT: Does anybody have -- yes.
Q Mr. Vice President, in terms of the tax cut, I mean, I applaud that effort but with the needs in the education system, wouldn't it have been better to spend some of those dollars more to fund the needs for the education system?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, we've provided in the budget that the President sent forward a very generous increase in funding for education. Not only are we reforming the system in many ways, but we're also significantly increasing the amount of federal dollars going into education.
If you look at the forecast over the next 10 years in terms of budget surplus, what the President did was to sit down and analyze what we can realistically expect.
We made very conservative assumptions. For example, we were very careful in terms of the assumptions we made with respect to those forecasts. Nobody cooked the books, so to speak, to inflate the estimates of surplus.
But given the overall state of the economy and given our tax structure, there's no question but that we were going to collect more revenue than we can justify. The tax burden now as a percentage of national income is at the highest level it's been since World War II. It's gradually crept up over time.
And what we're able to do with that surplus over 10 years now is to set aside the Social Security trust fund. Everything that comes in for Social Security will be used only for Social Security.
And we've still got enough left after you do that to provide for the tax cut as well as to provide for other essential national priorities. So we've got significant increases in education. The biggest percentage increase for any item in the budget is in education.
We've got enough funds in there to meet other priorities that the President campaigned on and promised.
Overall growth in the discretionary portion of the federal budget is almost five percent in 2002 over 2001. If you add up the discretionary part of the budget plus the entitlements we're spending, the budget is going to increase year over year by $100 billion.
We have not shortchanged those programs. By the same token, we're convinced that the best way to ensure the continued prosperity of the nation, if we get the kind of economic growth going forward that we've had in recent years, is in fact to take down those top rates, to get rid of the marriage penalty, to eliminate death taxes.
If we take those steps, that will guarantee that the tax burden is not so great that it stifles the entrepreneurial spirit, if you will, of the American people.
I think the prosperity that we've enjoyed over the last 20 years is in no small part due to the tax cuts that Ronald Reagan made back in 1981 when we took that top rate down to 70 percent, and the willingness of people to go out and take risks and to invest and create new businesses and expand old ones is tied directly to that.
So our future prosperity depends very much, we felt, upon making certain that that excess revenue went back to the taxpayers instead of going into the government spending stream, if you will.
If you leave it in Washington, it will be spent. There's just absolutely no doubt about it. I'm sure Ric and Mark would second that, and they've seen that process up close.
What happens is when you spend it, it goes into what's called the baseline and becomes a permanent part of the federal budget and you'll never get it back.
So we thought it was important for all of those reasons to go forward with the tax cut, and we did save enough for significant priorities in education as well.
A PARTICIPANT: Yes, ma'am. If you could say who you are and who you represent.
Q Yes. Bien venido. My name is Ana Rodriguez and I'm the marketing and operations director for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and this question is directed to Vice President Cheney. First of all, I want to tell you that you look great.
Q And I hope you continue feeling great and looking as great as you do.
This is a health issue question. Being that you personally have gone through health issues, are there any -- or have you encountered any issues, any challenges with the health care system that you are looking to maybe improve?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I guess the thing I'm struck by in health care -- and I have had some experience with the system over the years. For over 20 years now, as most of you know, I've dealt with a problem of coronary artery disease. Most of my political career occurred after I had a heart attack at age 37.
The thing that strikes me, and now I'm 60 and I've got a few years left in me, I hope, but I've watched and experienced firsthand the tremendous advances that we've had in medicine, certainly in the field that I'm most interested in, over the last 23 years.
And what I'm struck by is the extent to which prescription drugs in particular, products of pharmacies and our drug companies, have become so central to the way we treat and deal with and prevent disease.
And I hark back to 1978 when I first realized I had a problem. There wasn't very much that you could do about it. I was lucky the first time around it was sort of a mild episode, but there were no cholesterol lowering drugs. I'd never heard of that.
Today, you know, I don't know how many people here take cholesterol lowering drugs, but I'm proof positive they work.
There's so many other products now that have been brought to the market, and techniques, new techniques. For example, stents and angioplasty. They didn't exist 23 years ago.
And the problem -- one of the big problems we have in our medical care system today is that as more and more of the treatments for serious diseases become various kinds of prescription drugs, the fact that Medicare doesn't cover prescription drugs means it's increasingly irrelevant to really the heart of what people need in order to remain healthy, especially as they get older and have to deal with these kinds of problems.
So one of our top priorities is to find a way as we reform Medicare, which is one of the top priorities that's on the list -- once we get through taxes and education we'll begin working on that as well, too.
One of the keys has to be to modernize and reform and upgrade the Medicare system so that it also will provide for support for those key items that it doesn't now.
It's gotten old and bureaucratic. It's been a great system that's provided enormous benefits for a lot of people for 35 years, but it's -- you know, it's a huge bureaucracy. Look at all the regulations that govern the thing, the fact that a lot of key procedures aren't covered.
And it's important to modernize it and update it and equip it for the 21st century so that the Medicare system reflects the reality of how we actually treat disease.
GOVERNOR BUSH: Mr. Vice President, just as an editorial comment, the health care financing agency which runs the Medicare and Medicaid program in Washington -- the number two guy there is Ruben Fonsea (phonetic), which if you had to do the prototypical future Florida person, Ruben Fonsea is an African American and his dad, I think, is a Panamanian. He speaks Spanish fluently.
He's an African American from Florida. He's a great entrepreneur, a great business person. He's going to lead those reforms, I think, to bring Medicare into the 21st century. So we thank you for all of the (inaudible) that the Bush-Cheney administration has made.
On an administrational note (inaudible) came from Tallahassee. But this week the head of the National Park Service now seems to be confirmed in the Senate, which is a Floridian.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: We don't want to forget Mel Martinez.
GOVERNOR BUSH: One more that I think you all know about, because I was going to work my way up.
GOVERNOR BUSH: The one in between is Josefina (inaudible), who is one of the most talented women in America, in my opinion, who ran the Little Havana Activity Center and now this week was announced to be the head of all the aging programs in the United States in the Department of Health and Human Services.
So again, thank you very much for having the wisdom to select really talented Floridians that do represent the best and the most diverse group of people that you can have in Washington.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, it also proves that the long reach of the governor of Florida extends into the Oval Office.
Q On behalf of the Colombian community we want to extend Vice President Cheney and Governor Bush, Representative Ric Keller and the distinguished panel, a very warm "Saludos" from our community.
I'm here, the Miami Herald (inaudible) Columbia American (inaudible) but I'm here today also representing the National Federation of Colombian Associations in the United States (inaudible) committee, the (inaudible) and CAPAC, the Colombia American Political Action Committee. We are very proud of our citizens and also (inaudible) company and we (inaudible).
We are presenting for you, Vice President Cheney and Mr. Keller and Governor Bush, a request from our community, a community that has suffered for a long time due to the terrorist (inaudible) for Colombia.
Particularly we ask you kindly to help us to obtain the (inaudible) as something that we are long overdue, to be considered seriously, because of the needs that our Colombians are facing now.
When we had a (inaudible) in the United States many years ago, we were first to (inaudible) with the elite group of our youngsters of our (inaudible) Colombia for the conflict in Korea.
We are very proud to be in the United States at that time sending the best of our youngsters. We have thousands of those youngsters in need today. They have finished high school. They are unable to fulfill (inaudible) of the American dream, to continue their education, because no university will accept them.
(Inaudible) Social Security. We have the parents, adult parents facing our youngsters (inaudible), our parents at the mercy of the (inaudible) and (inaudible) standard salaries, unable to join the mainstream of (inaudible) because this individual who pays minimum wages, no taxes.
We are unable to (inaudible). We are unable to do any of the basic things that we know the American dream is all about.
So on behalf of the Colombian community, on behalf of CAPAC, we ask Vice President Cheney, Governor Bush and Representative Keller to help the Colombian in need, the Colombian community in need.
We ask you very respectfully to present President Bush with (inaudible) and we extend (inaudible) for the Republic of Colombia. Thank you very much.
Q I'm (inaudible) and I (inaudible), but I'm representing the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as a director and the Hispanic (inaudible). We have two appropriations in front of you at this time for the Hispanic district development and the Hispanic business (inaudible).
(Inaudible) sister agency of Hispanic Chamber (inaudible) $21 million in (inaudible) for our community. It also has helped fund $7 million of local (inaudible) and we'd like to have you seriously consider our request and we thank you for everything you do for us.
GOVERNOR BUSH: Thank you. That's a pretty topical subject, Mr. Vice President, just to bring you up to date. The budget that has been submitted to the governor and the governor here has line item veto authority, so that was a very respectful (inaudible) for compassion, I think.
We've all got struggles with all legislatures, similar to how presidents do with Congress about trying to find the right balance between process and prioritization and allowing the legislators to earmark projects that are important to their community.
I've gotten lots of e-mails from I think every (inaudible) and actually, Mrs. Munez, I was not aware of the first appropriation. I was aware of the investment fund appropriation.
So we are looking at all this and Friday is the day that we make the decision, so I appreciate your bringing it to my attention.
Q This is kind of a thank you, Governor, Mr. Vice President. We are so grateful that you are going to run again.
Q I'm not sure if there's any other governor in the United States that has (inaudible) and we know the love that you've got for our community. I never think of you as a North American. I think of you as Latin. I think (inaudible). So thank you again.
GOVERNOR BUSH: Thank you.
Q My name is Luis Morales. I'm the president of (inaudible), an organization based in Miami, Florida. And we are -- I would like to express gratitude towards Vice President Cheney and President Bush.
A couple of months ago we were aware of the activity of President Bush towards the immigration issue by (inaudible) or to persuade Congress to extend Section 245(i).
Without this intervention, thousands of immigrants were at risk to be deported. Families were at risk to be separated.
Right now the Peruvian community is working together with Congress and (inaudible) on a bill that is in the House of Representatives, Bill 945, which is called the (inaudible) Act, which will provide permanent residency to Peruvians and Colombians that have entered the United States in the decade of '80s and '90s.
In the decade of '80s, Peru was tremendously (inaudible) activities of the Shining Path and the (inaudible). Twenty-five thousand people lost their lives. Therefore, many Peruvians run into this country seeking shelter.
After many years have passed, they are now facing the risk of being deported because, according to the Department of State, there is a democracy now in place in Peru.
We think that it's very unfair for people that have lived in this country, particularly children that came in the ages of two to five that live in this country for more than a decade, to go back to a country which they are very unfamiliar with.
I have talked to youngsters that are at the verge of finishing their high school or that they have started their college.
They want to serve this country as their first country. They want to get into the Army or the Navy or the Air Force and they cannot do it because they don't have what is called the (inaudible) card. They don't have the permanent residency.
Many of these youngsters are facing also the frustration of not being able to continue with their studies because at the college level they are asking for (inaudible) that are international (inaudible).
I have a letter for Vice President Cheney that I would like to hand to you and request the support of President Bush for the (inaudible) Act. Thank you.
Q (Inaudible) Mr. Vice President. My name is Nancy Estevez and I'm the chairman of the Republican National (inaudible) central Florida chapter, and we have our treasurer (inaudible) here also.
First of all, to you and our dear (inaudible) we would like to congratulate both of you. You did a great (inaudible) everywhere you go. We're very proud of both of you. (Inaudible) be very proud (inaudible).
Q I can tell you I'm very excited to (inaudible) years and I hear a lot of things. We have a lot of (inaudible) there, but I can reassure you that we will be there for you no matter what.
Even (inaudible) gone through, the reorganization you have gone through. You know, we have (inaudible) this year, but we expect to have more next time (inaudible) State of Florida.
So thank you very much, and we know that you will win next year because (inaudible) our support. We're here for you. I've been here for you since (inaudible) and will be there for you (inaudible.)
Q My name is Jose (inaudible) and I am the executive secretary of the (inaudible) of Central Florida. With me (inaudible) that I would like to introduce (inaudible) president of the association and (inaudible).
And we would like to say one more time, welcome to our state, Mr. Vice President and the governor, and Ric Keller and everybody in Congress. We're so glad that we're here today and that we are part of (inaudible).
On behalf of the Association of Independent Churches we would like to extend to you a New Testament, Mr. Vice President and Mr. Bush. On behalf of the Association we would like to extend this to you.
A PARTICIPANT: Yes.
Q Good afternoon. I'm Commissioner Ed Martinez of (inaudible) of Seminole County. Welcome, Vice President Cheney, to central Florida.
We all know that you are part of the (inaudible). As a well-known (inaudible) make sure you stay healthy. It's very important you stay healthy, because we want to make sure that we (inaudible).
Q You have to stay another four years beyond these four years to make sure that this country gets back on course, that the traditional values are returned. The (inaudible) damaged our country. That somehow our youth need to learn the fact that America is all about.
The Republican tradition, the Republican way of life is work hard and achieve. We'll help you if you're down, but once you're up you have to start running on your own.
Q To you, Governor Bush, I've been in your campaign since in 1994. We lost in '94. It was a very tight race. But we still kept on ticking. We won in '98 and we don't want you to even think of not running in 2002.
GOVERNOR BUSH: I already said I was.
A PARTICIPANT: A couple more, and they can be, you know, questions or comments. You don't have to -- if you guys have got something that's related to the policy, here's the man. Yes.
Q I'm (inaudible) retired (inaudible) working part-time (inaudible) information about the health situation. I want to make a comment that -- and I was very active for 30 years (inaudible) medical. As (inaudible) exists at present, there is (inaudible) to stop these (inaudible) lawsuits and outrageous money given by the (inaudible).
I guess everybody knows about the (inaudible) million dollars after smoking for two years. I mean, that's (inaudible). Something has to be done in that respect because this (inaudible).
And second, being a Cuban, I've been here since 1962. I want to say something, Mr. Vice President. It's time for Cuba to be free again.
Q My name is Daniel Rodriguez and I'm president of (inaudible) council. Welcome to central Florida.
My question is not so much in regards to the (inaudible). I was just wondering if (inaudible) development in Venezuela right now that President Chavez is taking a different direction.
And most of all (inaudible) that are American and that (inaudible) are very concerned with our family there. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on that.
GOVERNOR BUSH: (Inaudible) foreign policy. I think --
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: The situation in Venezuela is complex. I spent some time before I came back to government -- when President Bush asked me to be his running mate I was running a company called Halliburton, and we did a lot of business in Venezuela. The company has been involved there since the 1930s. I used to get there about once a year, and so I have some friends there and follow it fairly closely.
Venezuela, of course, like a lot of countries has enormous problems. The huge gap between those few folks at the top who do very well and then the vast majority of people who live in pretty serious poverty. I don't know President Chavez personally. I'm concerned sometimes when I see his policies, what he does. He did get democratically elected by the people of Venezuela, and that counts for something. Sometimes I wish he had other friends, I guess is the way I would describe it.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: But, you know, it bears watching. I think there's a fine line you have to steer in America, that we are the world's most powerful nation. We do stand for basic fundamental values of freedom and democracy and individual liberty and human rights. And so to some extent we're a beacon for oppressed people all over the globe.
We also have to recognize, I think, lots of times, that we don't necessarily agree with the way a particular government conducts itself, with the way a particular society operates. On the other hand, we don't walk in their shoes. We have to recognize there are going to be differences.
But I do think it behooves us as a nation, especially now as we look throughout the western hemisphere, and see that we do have democratically elected governments from Tierra del Fuego all the way to Point Barrow in Alaska, with the single exception of Cuba.
And hopefully, as the doctor said, it's only a relatively short period of time before Cuba, too, will be free once again.
And hopefully we can encourage our friends in Venezuela and President Chavez as well too, to exercise due regard for his neighbors and for the rights of the people of Venezuela.
GOVERNOR BUSH: If I could make a comment about how pleased I am that there's a new administration in Washington, because I know the vice president and the president believe that Latin America in general is not our back yard but it is our front yard.
And thank goodness there is a focus on this because you take Castro's Cuba -- the emergence or certainty at least of Chavez in Venezuela, because if you follow his travel itinerary it is a little scary. He goes to Iran and Libya instead of Germany and France, or if you get my drift. I mean, that's a problem.
And now we have an election in Nicaragua where Daniel Ortega has the possibility of becoming elected, but here's a guy who -- this is my own, I want to make it clear to the press particularly that this is an individual, personal opinion, not reflective of any official policy of anybody's.
But he has stolen property from people and he has not given it back. And you start -- and he has violated basic human rights when he was president last time. And you see what goes on in Colombia now with guerilla warfare and you get concerned.
So thankfully the current administration is totally focused on this and repairing relationships that are so critical to make sure that democracy and freedom do win out in the end. It's not a given in any place. It's not a given in our country. We have to earn it each and every day.
And in Latin America we need to support the forces of freedom on a regular basis. So I'm thankful that Vice President Cheney and President Bush understand that.
Q If I may say something, please, because some people mentioned about the governor will be -- of course he announced it in Miami that he will run for re-election.
The reason I am mentioning it again, some of you were here when the governor successfully, you know, ran for governor. The day after the Winter Park (inaudible) which was that night and we were here very early in the morning, here for a time the Latin population, they did not like to come to a meeting, 7:00 a.m.
Q But this room was here full of people and really we hope that during this, you know, your re-election, that you can count on us to be here again at 7:00 a.m.
GOVERNOR BUSH: Before I ask the Vice President for some closing remarks, I want to thank Cesar and SunTrust for opening up their beautiful home here, at least office home, on a Saturday afternoon. Cesar has been a great host for many important events in the Hispanic community and now you've added another one, which is to have our illustrious Vice President be here in your bank. But we thank you so much for your generosity and for the bank's allowing us to be here. Mr. Vice President.
Q If I may. I'm sorry. If I may. On behalf of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Business Initiative (inaudible) I and all of our members of our chambers and our community here, we would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to have this conversation with you, both of you. Congressman Keller, I know he's a great supporter of our community as well. But it is nice for all of us to have this opportunity. And, of course, Cesar for allowing us into his house once again. Thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I appreciate very much all of your coming out on a Saturday afternoon. I know that you've got lots of ways you can spend your time besides listening to an officeholder.
But I'm delighted to be here. We care very much about your concerns and the issues you're involved in.
We think the Hispanic community in America represents the best and the brightest and inculcates that entrepreneurial spirit of America that's been so important over the last 200 years and will be very important for the next 200 years.
So we welcome your support. If you've got thoughts and ideas for us, we're eager to have them. On behalf of President Bush and myself, we'll do our level best to give you the kind of government you can be proud of.