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Senate Majority Leader Frist and Sens. Warner, Santorum Hold News Conference

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Date:
Location: Unknown

    (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

FRIST:

    I had the opportunity to meet, along with Senator Warner, Ambassador Bremer two days ago, shortly after his arrival. His message is one of optimism, of progress. And he will be sharing with us the details of that progress over the coming hour.

    Senator Warner?

WARNER:

    Thank you, Senator Frist.

    Ambassador Bremer very clearly last Saturday afternoon at the Pentagon in briefing the leader and myself and two other members of the House leadership had a strong positive message as to how many successes we're having in Iraq right now. And there are certain areas of Iraq that are as secure as we are here really in the nation's capital, a number of areas. And the citizens are moving forward to hold local elections. And we're helping the people deal with the daily problems, whether it's electricity, water or sewerage.

    Are we still having difficulties with the insurgents? Yes. In the triangle called the Sunni triangle, which is that area, including what we read about and heard about just a short time ago, where our forces are taking the fight to the insurgents, not sitting back waiting, taking the fight to the insurgents.

    And I'm optimistic that this most recent action here that we learned about beginning early this morning will clearly reveal that once again we have been able to get the key people that are inspiring and financing and otherwise providing for this insurgency.

    So we'll have a strong give-and-take session with Ambassador Bremer here this afternoon. I want to compliment the leadership in making the arrangements that the principals from the defense agency -- Bremer, as you know, is a part of the Rumsfeld team -- come up and keep our Senate well informed.

(UNKNOWN)

    On a domestic issue, I hope we can get the refundability of the child tax credit through before the August break.

    The conferees, including myself, Senator Nickles, Senator Lott, wrote a letter of offer to the House conferees.

    Number one, that we meet.

    Number two, the offer including the refundability as has passed the Senate already. The inclusion until the year 2007 of the full $1,000 child credit; through the year 2007 full elimination of the marriage tax penalty. The Military Tax Fairness Act and the definition of a child, single definition of the child as far as the tax code's concerned.

    Those are all things that have broad support and we have offered those as consideration to the House conferees.

SANTORUM:

    Just finally to wrap up. Just let me suggest that this week is going to be a week where we're going to talk about real issues here in the United States Senate.

SANTORUM:

    With Ambassador Bremer coming up, we're going to talk about real substantive issues on the ground in Iraq, as opposed to the politics that have been played here for the past few weeks surrounding some of the intelligence discussions that are purely politically motivated and without any real sense or real seriousness as to the decisions made either by Congress or the president being affected by this misinformation, or potential misinformation.

    We're not even sure about that.

    The fact is that this week we're going to talk about real things. We're going to talk about things that are going in Iraq, about improving the quality of life for the people in Iraq. We're going to talk about successes by our troops in Iraq during the most difficult phase of this operation.

    I refer you to statements that were made by ranking members of the Armed Services Committee, ranking members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and others who said repeatedly that winning the peace in Iraq would be a much tough job than winning the war. We're going through the very difficult process of winning peace, but you will hear this week that we are doing so. Methodically? Yes, with difficulty, but we are doing so. And we're finishing up in winning the war with some of the things that we've seen take place today.

    The fact of the matter is that only half the story is being told here in the last few weeks. And thankfully, with Ambassador Bremer here, we're going to see some of the progress that's being made and give the American public a better eye on really is happening and what really happened in Iraq.

WARNER (?):

    We'll take questions shortly. Then, we have briefly with Ambassador Bremer.

    But I mentioned earlier, our commitment completing energy. I know on the floor, after I spoke this morning, that the Democratic leaders said we need more time for that. We spent 80 days in the last Congress, that it's complicated.

    And let me just state once again my commitment to finish this bill.

WARNER (?):

    We've given adequate time. Next week we will have time for a debate and amendment. The chairman has made that clear. And I wanted to turn to the chairman of the Energy Committee for him to reflect that commitment, but also a little bit about what he has planned for next week as we undertake this very important bill.

DOMENICI:

    Thank you very much.

    Well, next week we will have one full week to complete the energy bill. There are only about five or six major issues, and we're working diligently with all sides to try to get it completed.

    The biggest issue is electricity. And we're working very hard to get that put together. In cafe standards, there ought to be two amendments on that. We're ready to go. We know who's going to offer them. They'll have plenty of time. They will be two amendments on climate change. We know who's going to offer them. We know how much time.

    And you know, we have a House bill that has already been passed that we have to go to conference with, in order to get an energy bill for our country. I am absolutely confident that if there is the slightest willingness to cooperate, that we can finish this bill and have a very major bill producing energy for the future, jobs for the future and get it done and have it something that we can be proud of and that will be very good for the American people. Thank you.

(UNKNOWN)

    Now, let's take a few questions.

QUESTION:

    Senator?

WARNER:

    Yes?

QUESTION:

    (OFF-MIKE) confirm the sons of Saddam Hussein have been killed?

QUESTION:

    How significant is that?

FRIST:

    In Mosul?

QUESTION:

    Yes.

FRIST:

    The issue could be very, very significant. And I think it is too early based on information coming out for confirmation.

    It does allow us, especially with this backdrop of us addressing homeland security on the floor, for us to step back and look at what is happening in Iraq.

    Number one, a bloody tyrant no longer rules Iraq. An evil regime no longer exists in Iraq. Yet we know the war on terror continues.

    If the preliminary implications prove out to be accurate -- and again, we just don't know; we've not been provided with any information -- it does show our aggressiveness, our commitment, our recognition that this is an ongoing and would be a major success.

QUESTION:

    Senator, after you finish the homeland security bill, will you go to Labor-HHS, or do you think...

FRIST:

    Once we complete homeland security -- and talking to the chairman, we're going to work very hard to complete it Wednesday night --we would probably go to another appropriation bill. It would probably not be Labor-HHS. I do want to have another appropriation bill, if at all possible, that we can complete and still be able to go to energy, and that's going to probably take a little bit longer than that.

QUESTION:

    Interior...

FRIST:

    Could be. It could be a range of bills, just don't want to commit at this point. But we would go straight to another appropriation bill.

QUESTION:

    Some have suggested that Senator Durbin revealed information he should not have revealed from that closed intelligence hearing, some are suggesting that he should be removed from the committee as a result. That has happened before. What's your sense on that?

FRIST:

    I can't comment specifically, and if somebody else would like to on allegations that have been made with regard to another senator.

    I can simply state, and we talk about it in our leadership meetings and our caucus, it is absolutely critical when we have closed meetings that that information not leak out.

    And we're getting ready right now to go into a closed -- again, a secret, a confidential meeting, which is important, so we can have a free discussion, so that we can make sure that we are provided with complete intelligence.

    And I will again and again stress the importance.

    In terms of specific allegations, I don't know enough about them in terms of -- to comment intelligently.

QUESTION:

    (OFF-MIKE) the White House ask for him to be removed from the Intelligence Committee?

FRIST:

    Nobody has come to me as the majority leader and ask for him to be removed.

QUESTION:

    (OFF-MIKE) AmeriCorps funding that the Senate voted for. Do you -- what needs to happen to get beyond that (OFF- MIKE)

FRIST:
    The supplemental -- we will pass the supplemental this week.

    I've not studied fully what the House proposed yesterday.

    It is likely that this supplemental will be closer to a clean supplemental than not, and I really can't be more specific than that.

    There were amendments added on the Senate side. I understand there were some on the House side. We still are dealing with AmeriCorps, which did pass overwhelmingly on our side.

    But it's too early to tell. We'll know here in the next 48 to 72 hours.

    Thank you all very much.

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