THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH MEMBERS OF THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY
The Roosevelt Room
2:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It is great to see all of you. You know, I heard Tom's speech outside and I want to say, first of all, how grateful I am to -- as an American -- to Tom Harkin, and Steny Hoyer, and all of you who made the Americans with Disabilities Act a reality. But how much I owe, as a public servant, to Senator Harkin personally. You know, when we were on the campaign trail together, he made his brother the most famous brother in America -- (laughter) -- in a very beautiful way. And you need to know when he was up here speaking we've been killing time because his brother, Frank, is on the phone and he doesn't' have time to talk to me right now. (Laughter.) His line is busy -- this is true -- his line's busy. We've been trying to call him -- (laughter) -- which is a great -- it's great -- it means that the thing is working. (Laughter.) This is -- yesterday, I guess, was the effective date when the telephone service had to be provided, so I'm so excited about that.
While we're waiting for the line to clear, let me just, if I might make a few points. First, I want to reaffirm strong support of our administration for implementing and enforcing the act. Yesterday, the Attorney General and a number of other Cabinet members conducted some activities designed to clearly remove any ambiguity about that and to reenforce our commitment on that issue.
The second thing I want to do is to -- I know that Roy's already introduced them, but to say a special word of thanks to Americans with disabilities who happen to be part of this administration and to those who will be, including some in this room and some who are not in this room.
Finally, let me say, we need your help because you have become a very powerful force. We need your help to pass this economic plan so we can get on with the rest of the business of the country. And then so we can get on the health care and try to deal with the issues of long-term care and personal services and empowerment, the kinds of things that are so important to -- I heard Tom talking about the inclusion, independence and empowerment. There are a lot of Americans who need that, not just Americans with disabilities.
And we have to go forward. And I know a lot of people, but none more than you, are eager to see this debate on health care begin. It cannot begin until we have a budget and economic plan in place. And there are many more things that we have to do which are also of interest to you that are especially important -- we need a new crime bill; we need a bill that reforms the welfare system -- it also works on empowerment. We need a whole series of things that we are eager to get on with doing. But first we have to nail this budgetary issue.
I am especially interested in the health care debate, as you know. And I spoke with the First Lady this morning, as I do on most mornings -- (laughter) -- and we were reviewing our -- we were reviewing our days, and I told her that Tom and I were going to be here with you today, and she was very interested in, you know, the fact that we were going to do this and asked me to give you her best, and to thank those of you who have been involved already with her in the health care task force in trying to work through these issues.
END2:54 P.M. EDT