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Public Statements

Press Conference with Senate Republicans

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

SEN. SANTORUM: I just want to say that I think what we've seen so far in the commencement of this war shows the president's commitment to try to change this regime without having any -- as minimal impact as possible on the Iraqi people and even the Iraqi military.

I saw -- last night was the beginning of the war, but it really was the beginning of trying to win the peace. We are going to win this war, and what the president did last night was an attempt, by trying to end this war -- as Senator Lugar said, truncate this war, to try to win this peace. And the fact that we are doing extensive psychological operations to try to get the military to step aside, to surrender, to not sacrifice their lives for someone who cares nothing about theirs, is a -- is really a testament that we don't even have a problem with the Iraqi army, our problem is with the leader of the country. And for every Iraqi soldier that we can spare, that's a family member who -- there are family members in Iraq who didn't lose a son or a daughter. And that's, again, building a good, solid foundation for winning the peace in Iraq.

This is a president who had the ability to hammer a heavy blow against the Iraqi army and the Iraqi people, and chose, instead, a very compassionate and principled way of trying to end this crisis and topple this regime. And my highest commendation go to him and to the planners of the strategy.

Thank you.

SEN. FRIST: We'll be happy to take questions.

Over the course of the afternoon, we will be on this resolution, and you will hear further expression of support of our troops, for the military, for the women and men, and especially their families who await their safe return.

The purpose of this engagement is the advancement of freedom in Iraq, and to accomplish that, it does require regime change and we will see that outcome here in the not-too-distant future.

Yes?

Q Senator, is the resolution a done deal? I had heard there was some concern among some of the Democrats that -- of support for the commander in chief included in this new resolution -- (not about the ?) commander in chief but about the troops. Is it a done deal as you understand it?

SEN. FRIST: The final wording is being worked out as we speak. And I'm very hopeful that by 1:00 or 1:30 or so, we will have final language. That's why we're being a little bit careful, instead of just reading it, until we continue our discussions with them.

Q Are you certain it will include support for the commander in chief as well as the troops?

SEN. FRIST: I'm certain it will.

Yeah?

Q Senator, what do you think of the administration's attempt to take out the Iraqi leadership early last night?

SEN. FRIST: The approach yesterday by our military, I think, surprised a lot of people. And as it unfolds -- the story behind that -- I think what it will say is what you just heard from my colleagues, and that is the goal is regime change. It's not a battle, it's not a war against the Iraqi people. Secretary Rumsfeld, about an hour and 10 minutes ago, held a public press conference, and very much the focus of his address was these are the things you as Iraqi people and in the military can do; that it's not you who are the enemy at this juncture, it is Saddam Hussein, the tyranny and the murderous demonstration in the past of Saddam Hussein, and that's the enemy.

It was surgical strikes. Everybody had anticipated coming in with the full force. It surprised the media, it surprised us and I'm sure it surprised the Iraqi regime.

Q Will the resolution state regime change as a goal, then?

SEN. FRIST: I don't want to get that specific. We'll know within an hour on the resolution itself. But it will be directed at Saddam Hussein.

Q Some Republicans are still criticizing Senator Daschle's remarks the other day. At a time when you're trying to work out an agreement on this resolution, do you think that that is still wise?

SEN. FRIST: I do not think it's wise at this juncture. It's time to move on. It's time for the United States to pull together, it's time for us in the United States Senate to pull together. That's the purpose of this resolution, to support our military, to support our commander in chief and to support our allies and others who understand the direction in which we're going.

Yeah?

Q I wanted to ask Senator Warner a question. Do you believe that Saddam Hussein is dead?

SEN. WARNER: I have no facts to express in response to your questions -- definitive.

Q Can I ask a second question? Today Senator Clinton was on the Senate floor and said that it is totally inappropriate to move forward with the budget without the cost of war, and that it is the troops overseas who in the future -- the young troops overseas who will bear the burden of the Senate's fiscal irresponsibility by not including that. What is your response to her comment?

SEN. WARNER: I disagree with Senator Clinton. She's on my committee, the Armed Services Committee, where she's a valued member. I disagree with it, but I stand firmly with my leader who says at this point in time, particularly this day as we address this resolution, we should seek unity in the United States Senate.

SEN. FRIST: Let me just comment on the budget -- and, Rick, you'll probably want to comment -- because it is going to play out in the next 48 to 72 hours, if we go into Saturday.

First and foremost on the minds of the American people, and on our minds, is our military and the action that is underway -- their safety, their purpose. And we are resolute about that, and that will be expressed in the resolution itself and what's said on the floor.

At the same time, just like our women and men are over there carrying out their responsibility and their duty, we applaud them. We have a responsibility as elected representatives, as United States senators, and a basic responsibility is to determine how we spend money to support those troops and their families, and other issues that affect every American -- education, health care, reaching out to the under-served broadly. And that's what the budget does. That's our responsibility. And just like all of you are here doing your job covering us today, and people all over the United States of America went into work early this morning, will be there late today, we have a responsibility, and that responsibility is to prioritize, to pass a budget. We have statutory deadlines that we're going to meet.

And thus, I made it very clear that we are not going to have delaying tactics which try to push the budget a week, a month, or even a year, when our responsibility is to pass a budget. Therefore, we're going to be here today. We were here last night till very late, and the night before.

And I predict tonight we'll be here till midnight, and we may well be here till Friday midnight, and Saturday, to accomplish our responsibilities.

Q Senator, to follow-up on that, I mean, certainly -- again, certainly you can spend some period of time today, more than a couple of hours, and have this final vote --

SEN. FRIST: That's correct.

Q -- Saturday -- on Monday. What specific harm is done by pushing the vote, you know, until Monday?

SEN. FRIST: Oh, no, there's no harm. I want to make sure every senator has the opportunity to express that support. And my only objective and what I insist upon is we fulfill our responsibility to the American people, and that is to pass a budget. And that budget -- I wouldn't push it to Monday unless we go Thursday, Thursday night, Friday, Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night and then to Monday. But we'll stay here till we finish the budget. But I want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to support our troops. Absolutely.

Q And by that, you're willing to let people talk as much as they want to now, today, when this is (ripe ?), but you're also saying that you're going to stick around on the budget until it gets done. Is that fair?

SEN. FRIST: I think that's fair. Well, let me just say that -- I will continue to talk to the leader. I think, just like we have the budget, we have 14 hours left, or probably 12 hours left on the budget, and then we're going to have 30 or 40 or 50 amendments; I think it would be nice if we came to some agreement that let's spend a few hours today and a few hours tomorrow and a few hours Saturday on supporting the troops, and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, so that everybody has the opportunity. If the other side of the aisle each wants to spend an hour, to me, recognizing that our responsibility is the budget, I would think that they're not serious about the budget and they're using delaying tactics. I don't expect that Again, my objective is to pass the budget, express support for our troops, and we can do that if we stay here today, tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night and Saturday.

SEN. SANTORUM: I would just say, the most important thing we can do to express support is to vote, is to vote on a resolution expressing that support. Every member of the United States Senate, I am confident, is talking about this issue to the people back home. You all are here. There are interviews all over the place, interviewers being -- it's non-stop request. No member of the United States Senate is not having the opportunity to express our support for the troops in a way that's probably more profound than giving a speech on the floor of the United States Senate.

The fact of the matter is, what the leader has said is right. We have a duty to keep our eye on the ball. The president's focused right now on executing this war, as he should be.

We're going to make sure, with passing a budget and preparing a package for expanding this economy, that when our men and women come back from that war, they have a job. That's our job. Our job is to make sure that when they're finished doing the protecting of our national security interests, that they return to an economy that's beginning to grow and create jobs so they have a better quality of life when they return. And I think we need to keep our eye on the ball. And I don't think speeches by members of the United States Senate create any jobs in this country, but passing a budget certainly will.

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