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Clinton to Announce Fmr. Rep. Norman Mineta as Commerce Secretary Nominee; House Passes Prescription Drug Bill

Aired June 29, 2000 - 10:09 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A developing story this morning from the White House: The Clinton administration will announce later today its nominee to be the next Commerce Secretary. That person will replace William Daley, who is leaving the administration in July to take the reigns of Al Gore's presidential campaign.

Our White House correspondent Kelly Wallace back with us now for more on this and the chosen successor.

Kelly, good morning

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Bill. That's right, if President Clinton gets his way, a former Democratic congressman from California will take over the helm at the Commerce Department. Later this morning at an event here at the White House, Mr. Clinton is expected to nominate former Democratic Congressman Norman Mineta to replace Commerce Secretary William Daley.

Mineta resigned from the House of Representatives back in 1995. And you will recall that Secretary Daley announced a couple of weeks ago that he was stepping down form his cabinet post so that he could head up Al Gore's campaign for the White House.

The secretary said his last day at the Commerce Department would be July 15, so the president has put forth this nomination. Apparently, White House officials say, the president wanted someone who was very high profile, someone who would probably get a swift and certain confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate -- Bill.

HEMMER: Kelly, now to another story out of the White House this morning. The House last night passed a prescription drug bill. Republicans like it, Democrats don't, the White House isn't happy with it. What's happening here?

WALLACE: That's exactly right, Bill, and the president is definitely not happy about it. Shortly after the vote last night, the president issued a written statement, saying if the Republican-backed plan gets to his desk, he will definitely veto it. In that statement, Mr. Clinton called the Republican approach, quote, "a flawed, unworkable private insurance prescription benefit that provides more political cover than insurance coverage for our nation's seniors."

Now, Mr. Clinton has put forth a compromise. He says that he will accept the Republican plan to eliminate the so-called "marriage tax penalty" if they except his proposal, his $100 billion proposal to provide prescription drug coverage to all seniors under Medicare. Mr. Clinton, in a news conference yesterday, said the government could afford to help all seniors with the high cost of prescription drugs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... some who say we can't provide affordable, accessible prescription drug coverage for all our seniors. I believe that's wrong. With millions of them without coverage, the absence of prescription drug coverage is a fatal flaw in our present health care system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, Democrats took every opportunity to attack the Republicans and question their motivation. The House minority leader, Dick Gephardt, even led fellow Democrats on a brief walkout from the House floor, which basically delayed yesterday's vote till well after the network news programs. But Republicans accuse the Democrats of playing politics and not working with the GOP to get a prescription drug benefit. Last night, the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, said "it is time to help seniors with the high cost of drugs."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: We should do this to help our mothers and our grandmothers and our neighbors down the street. We should do this to help those seniors that gather for coffee every morning down at the local McDonalds. And we should do this to help those who rely on prescription drugs to stay alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And the House speaker indicated that the Senate does plan to take up the prescription drug issue. Later today, apparently, the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, will meet with the two senators, a Democrat and a Republican, to discuss a bipartisan approach to Medicare prescription drug coverage.

As for taking up the president's compromise, the House speaker said that the GOP is always willing to sit down with the president. But the majority leader in the Senate, his spokesman says that the Republicans do not want to do any horse trading, trading Medicare for taxes. They will work with the president, but only issue by issue.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, reporting live from the White House.

HEMMER: All right, Kelly, thanks.

The vote in the House 217-214. It doesn't get much more partisan than that.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right down the middle there.

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