THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The Rose Garden
5:36 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. For six long years, the American people have watched and waited as Washington talked about stemming the tide of crime and violence in this country, but did not act. Today, senators of both parties took a brave and promising step to bring the long, hard wait for a crime bill closer to an end.
I want to salute the senators of both Republican and Democratic ranks who put law and order, safety and security above politics and party.
Ordinary Americans all across our country ought to take heart today. In the last two weeks, members of Congress in both houses and from both parties have thrown off the bonds of politics as usual to do the people's business. That's what the people sent us all here to do. I hope this crime bill will now rapidly pass the Senate and that we can move on doing the people's business across party lines, unencumbered by the labels of the past and the false choices of the past, moving to a better future for all Americans.
Q Mr. President, Fidel Castro says there's a simple way to stop the exodus of Cuban refugees, and that is to open up a high level dialogue between Washington and Havana. What's so bad about that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, first of all, we have asked that we resume our talks, as you know, or we have offered a resumption of talks on the whole issue of immigration. And I have been doing a careful study over the last few days of the nature of our immigration laws and their implementation, especially since the 1984 agreement signed in the Reagan administration. But that is what this issue is about.
The other issues -- I think President Castro or Premier Castro needs to be in consultation with his own folks. The people of Cuba want democracy and free markets. And that's always been our policy, and that will continue to be our policy. But I would urge the American people to be firm and be calm about what is going on here now. We must not let any nation, even a nation as close to us as Cuba, even with so many American citizens of Cuban descent, control the immigration policy of the United States and violate the borders of the United States. We have to be firm in this. And we will work this through to a successful conclusion, I believe.
Q Mr. President, what's wrong with talking to Cuba and Fidel Castro when we talk with other so-called outlaw nations like North Korea?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have a different policy of 30 years standing. And I think Mr. Castro knows the conditions for changing that policy. The discussions that have been held on a regular basis for several years now between our two countries have been limited to matters of immigration. They can be held, and we would support that.
Q Mr. President, is health care dead this year?
THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't say that, no. I don't think you can say that because -- and I don't think the recess will kill it. Was that what you were going to --.
And the reason I say that is because, like most of you, I have watched with great interest what has happened and what has not happened in the Senate and the House. I told you all when we started this issue a long time ago, now over a year ago, that it was a very complicated issue, that it's no accident that presidents of both parties for 60 years have tried to find a way to solve the health care crisis and have never been able to do it, particularly in the face of intense, organized and expensive efforts to stop it.
But I think the less I say the better right now, as long as Senator Mitchell and Senator Chafee and Senator Breaux and others are doing their best to continue this dialogue. I spoke to another Democratic senator today who said that she felt there was -- there's still a good chance that a bill could come out that people would want to vote for and think was the right thing to do.
So I think we just have to let this thing develop a little bit and see what happens in these dialogues. And again, I think the less I say about it, the better.
Thank you very much.
Q When do you go on vacation?
THE PRESIDENT: It's still up to the Congress, isn't it?
Q Will you wait until the Senate goes into recess?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, absolutely. I want to wait until the crime bill is over for sure.
END 5:41 P.M. EDT