Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



White House Press Briefing

Aired February 14, 2002 - 12:32   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Right on cue, Ari Fleischer now at the White House.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ...he called Prime Minister Orban of Hungary. The two had a very friendly conversation. The president congratulated the prime minister for the honorary degree that he received on February 11 from the Fletcher School of Tufts University. The president discussed the freedoms and the values that our nations holds dear and the importance of the Hungarian contribution to regional stability. And the president expressed his determination to route out terrorist groups, and his appreciation for Hungary's support in the war on terrorism.

The president also called President Aznar of Spain, in his capacity as president of the EU, the European Union. The president called to brief President Aznar on the announcement he'll be making this afternoon on global climate change. It was a very productive discussion, both leaders emphasizing their common purposes.

Along those same lines, Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice have also been calling world leaders, filling them in on the president's announcement this afternoon.

The president then has briefings this morning, a CIA briefing, an FBI briefing, had various other meetings with staff. He is currently having lunch with the vice president, and then he will depart the White House where he will travel to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration where the president will make a new announcement about global warming and ways that the president is proposing to reduce the amount of emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as making an announcement where the president will be the first president ever to propose a multi-emission strategy for power plants that will lead to cleaner air for every community and for people everywhere in America.

It's a proposal that's focused on reducing three pollutants from power plants that has never been made before, goes beyond anything previously proposed, which will be a high watermark in cleaning the air in communities across our country.

The president will return to the White House. He'll have a credential ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors, and then this evening the president will participate in a salute to gospel music, celebrating America's cultural and musical heritage.

And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Ari, does the president believe that the Shays-Meehan bill that passed the House early this morning improves the system, and would he discourage Senate Republicans from filibustering it (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

FLEISCHER: Jon, the president has been very clearly that he wants to sign a bill that improves the current system.

The president has been very clear that he wants to sign a bill that improves the current system. Parts of that legislation surely do. Other parts are not as fully consistent with the president's principles, but parts do.

As for what the Senate is going to do, the president understand that the senators have historically have very strong feelings about it, and the president has made it clear that he would like to have something sent to his desk that he can sign.

QUESTION: Is this something that he can sign?

FLEISCHER: Well we don't know what the ultimate outcome will be yet. That all depends on what action the Senate takes. So I think it's a little early to get declarative, but the president has sent a very clear signal to the Congress that he wants to sign something that improve the system.

QUESTION: Sure, but Shays-Meehan in it's current form -- does he believe that's enough?

FLEISCHER: No. The president will wait to be declarative until he signs what the final bill is. As you know the House passed something. The Senate now has to take up what the House passed. We don't know what the ultimate outcome in the Senate, so a little early to get declarative.



QUESTION: Does the president have any particular objection to Shays-Meehan? Is there anything in the current bill that's a deal- breaker for him?

FLEISCHER: Well, I've not heard the president use the word deal- breaker, but I know that the president has six principles which you know that the president is dedicated to in campaign finance reform.

The president wants to get soft money, union and corporate soft money out of politics. The president wants to have more disclosure; the president has outlined a series of items and the president is very pleased that one of the most pernicious elements of the Shays-Meehan bill was removed at his request at 2:45 in the morning this morning. And that was a provision that was put in at midnight the night before which would have allowed for the first time to have soft money collected to pay off hard money debts. The president objected to that provision; the president is gratified that the House did the right thing and took out that giant soft money loophole. We'll come back to you later.


QUESTION: Yesterday, General Musharraf (OFF-MIKE) pretty much implied that Danny Pearl is still alive.

Today, we're hearing reports that the person who has been captured in Pakistan has been saying that he believes he's dead. What is the latest thing the White House knows about?

FLEISCHER: We've heard those reports. There's no confirmation of that. We cannot confirm that, have no indication. Obviously, the president hopes very deeply that Mr. Pearl is still alive. And we continue to do everything possible with Pakistan to bring him home where he belongs.

QUESTION: In the conversations that General Musharraf held with President Bush yesterday, was there any time, any indication that he had some basis in which to base his optimism (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: I think he shared with you everything that he said when he participated in the news conference.

QUESTION: Ari, back on campaign finance reform. Are you concerned at all that if there is a GOP-lead filibuster in the Senate that this could slow some movement on some of the White House's priorities -- for instance, trying to get the Senate to take up stimulus package?

FLEISCHER: Well, filibusters come and filibusters go in the Senate. I mean, it's become a modern-day common occurrence. Filibusters used to be very rare events. Filibusters also used to be unruly, disorderly things in which people would have to stand on the floor of the Senate and speak for 24 or 48 or 72 hours. Now, filibusters are so routine that you don't even have to speak on the floor.

QUESTION: That's true, but at the same time, you do have an agenda that you want to pursue. And to repeat the question, are you concerned that a GOP filibuster on this issue will hurt...

FLEISCHER: In understanding what a modern-day filibuster means, it's all become a nice little orderly device, where you file something called cloture. And it doesn't, literally, tie up the floor, you just have to get 60 votes. They really have taken the filibuster process and made it so routine that it really doesn't tie up the floor anymore.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you were very concerned...

FLEISCHER: Third question.

QUESTION: Yesterday -- two and a half...


Yesterday, you were very concerned that the Democrats or the proponents of Shays-Meehan had inserted something into the bill at midnight.

QUESTION: Soft money.

FLEISCHER: Money is falling on the floor here. If those are contributions, I'm no longer allowed to accept them. Thank you.

QUESTION: At the same time, we had legislation, that some people consider pretty important, considered at about 2:50 a.m. this morning, or a final vote was wrapped up about then. What's the White House's opinion on the fact that the vote had to be taken in the middle of the night when most of America, unless you were up watching the Olympics, missed it?

FLEISCHER: It's fairly typical in the House and in the Senate. The schedule of votes often slides, and it's just a function of the procedures that are used on the floor of the House and the Senate.

QUESTION: Ari, why are you being so noncommittal about this? Because in the past, if there are other measures that you support, even if the process is not complete, you have said that the president would sign a bill or would veto a bill? Why not in this case?

FLEISCHER: Actually, I think as a result of the manner in which the president has approached campaign finance reform, the president has, for the first time, made this a real debate that has a chance of getting signed into law. I think that in a case where both parties were doing a fair share of posturing over the last decade on this issue, that there was substantial risk involved.

If the president had boldly come out for one or the other as opposed to outlining the principles he outlined and work productively with members of both parties to move things forward to improve the system, I think it could have led to a system where, again, Democrats would have said, "Well, let's do the opposite of what the president said, because we'd rather have the issue than the reform."

The president has made it real this year as a result of the outline -- of the principles that he outlined, and the path that he has chosen to pursue, and I think that's why you're seeing something move forward that for, the first time, has a real chance of going somewhere. Let's see what the Senate does, but that's the reason why.

HEMMER: We're going to leave the White House momentarily.




Back to the top