December 18, 2000
Elizabeth Farnsworth reports on President-elect George W. Bush's first day in Washington.
JIM LEHRER: The President-elect goes to the Capitol. Elizabeth Farnsworth reports.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This morning at the Sam Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, President-elect George W. Bush was given an official welcome by congressional leaders of both parties. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert emphasized bipartisanship in his remarks.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT: You know, I think it's quite appropriate we're in the Rayburn Room, named after another Texan a couple of decades ago that was able to really get a lot of things done for the American people, and much of it on a bipartisan basis. So I think that's a good start.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: President-elect Bush and the four congressional leaders met for two hours.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: I told all four that I felt like this election happened for a reason; that it pointed out-- the Delay in the outcome should make it clear to all of us-- that we can come together to heal whatever wounds may exist, whatever residuals there may be. And I really look forward to the opportunity. I hope they've got my sense of optimism about the possible, and enthusiasm about the job. I told all four that there are going to be some times where we don't agree with each other, but that's okay. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier... ( Chuckles ) ( laughter ) ...just so long as I'm the dictator. ( Laughter )
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Afterwards, all four congressional leaders said they believed that today's meeting was a good start.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: This is a time for a new beginning, a new atmosphere, a new tone. I believe we have a leader in George W. Bush that will provide direction toward a more cooperative atmosphere. We also, in the Congress, are talking and communicating more than perhaps we have some time in the past. Senator Daschle and I have been having regular meetings. We are committed to working together on an aggressive schedule to consider his nominations for confirmation. I think that'll be an important part of getting off to a good start.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE: It's an opportunity for us to wipe the slate clean, to begin anew, with a recognition that we have many, many challenges ahead, and that as we face those challenges, the only real choice for us is to recognize that bipartisanship isn't an option-- it's a requirement.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Later at the press conference, reporters asked House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt whether he still questioned the legitimacy of Bush's narrow victory over Vice President Gore.
REPORTER: Mr. Gephardt, three times yesterday you refused to call Mr. Bush a legitimate President. I have two questions: Why, and secondly, why should the American people believe that you will work with this man when you question his legitimacy -- and perhaps the President-elect would like to comment on your answers.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: "Yes" is my answer.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: Well, a little later today, I believe-- and maybe it's already happened-- the electors are going to elect George W. Bush to be the next President of the United States. And I believe on January 20th, not too many steps from here, he's going to be sworn in as the next President of the United States. I don't know how you can get more legitimate than that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The President-elect was asked whether the centerpiece of his legislative - the $1.3 trillion tax cut -- could garner enough support in Congress.
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: You see, one of the dreams that we all share-- and I'm confident Democrats share the same dream that Republicans do-- that we want the middle class accessible to all, and yet the tax code makes it awfully difficult for some. And so I spent a lot of time talking about that on the campaign trail, because I believe it, not because I was trying to position myself against another candidate. Secondly, I talked about marginal rate reduction to serve as an insurance policy against a potential economic downturn. I was saying that a year ago. The potential economic downturn is... is perhaps more real today than it was a year ago, and I look forward to working... making my case to both the leaders on the Republican side and Democrat side that marginal rate reductions will help spur economic activity and economic growth. I think the case is even more solid today than it was a year ago when I started campaigning on the issue, so it's not only my views relate to the economy as well as the fairness in the code.
SPOKESMAN: Are you prepared to say today that there is no room for compromise on the size and the scope of your tax cut plan?
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe the reason I stand here is because I took clear and strong positions on important issues such as tax relief, or Medicare reform, or Social Security reform, or education reform, and I look forward to working with the members to get it done, with one thing in mind: What's best for the country. What is best for the country? And that's the question that I'm going to ask. And the good news is, after my meeting with the four members up here, they asked the same question, and it's a darn good place to start. Thank you all very much.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: George W. Bush is scheduled to meet with President Clinton and Vice President Gore tomorrow.