THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH BIPARTISAN CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP The Cabinet Room
9:35 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I want to make a brief statement, then I'll answer a question or two.
The primary purpose of this meeting is for me to have a chance to thank the bipartisan congressional leadership for their cooperation and for our good working relationship here in this first year. I first met with this group on January the 26th; we've met many times since then. I've been to Capitol Hill, I think, 15 times. This is only the second time in 60 years when there's been no presidential veto in a year. Sometimes the major initiatives that were passed were passed with partisan votes, but many times with bipartisan votes. And this was a remarkable year.
We passed the big deficit reduction package, which has kept interest rates down and inflation down and has contributed to a major increase in investment and job growth in the country. We passed with bipartisan support national service, NAFTA, the family and medical leave bill, major flood relief for people in the middle west; both houses have passed the campaign finance bill, a crime bill, the Brady bill. Health care reform has been introduced. This has been a very productive year, and I am extremely grateful to the leadership of both houses for working so closely with the White House.
I also want to just thank the members of Congress for working so hard. By my count they spent about 40 percent more hours in session than is normal for this year. And I appreciate that, and I wish them a good Thanksgiving.
The last point I would like to make is, as most of you know, the person who handled my congressional relations, Howard Pastor, will be leaving the White House at the end of the year, and I want to publicly thank him for the work he did with both houses, in both parties, and representing me so effectively. I think he's done a wonderful job, and he's going to be hard to replace. (Applause.)
Q You don't think that Bonior and Gephardt did you any favors this year, do you?
THE PRESIDENT: They did me a lot of favors. If they hadn't voted for the budget and helped me pass it, we would have never gotten it enacted.
Q Mr. President, what's your reaction to Senator Dole's latest attempt to hold up the Brady bill? (Laughter.) And what do you -- and what do you think you can do about it?
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. We're working on that. And I think -- they're not as far apart as you think, at least Senator Dole. I still have -- you know me, I believe in miracles. I believe that we may still get this worked out.
SENATOR DOLE: He called me -- when I came in. (Laughter.)
Q Are you going to call -- is Senator Mitchell going to call the Senate back if they don't pass it today?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's up to Senator Mitchell. But I think -- let us work today. Let's see what we can do today. We're working on something today, and let's let today pass and then we'll be able to talk about it.
Q Well, what does Senator Mitchell say? (Laughter.)
SENATOR MITCHELL: It's very nice of you to come here and wish us a happy Thanksgiving.
No, the answer is that if we don't work it out and pass it today, we will be back next week.
Q Senator Dole, what will it take for you to throw your support behind the Brady bill now?
SENATOR DOLE: I think we can talk to you later. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: We're trying to get this worked out. Give us a chance -- we're trying to get this worked out.
Q And who's replacing Howard?
THE PRESIDENT: I haven't made a decision. Are you interested in the job, Jim?
Q No, thank you. I've seen what he had to go through this past year.
THE PRESIDENT: Lower pay and longer hours, it's the kind of thing --
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:40 A.M. EST