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Public Statements

Media Availability with Republican Senators

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

HEADLINE: MEDIA AVAILABILITY WITH REPUBLICAN SENATORS

TOPIC: A PRE-RECESS UPDATE

PARTICIPANTS: SENATOR BILL FRIST (R-TN), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER; SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY); SENATOR RICK SANTORUM (R-PA)

BODY:
SEN. SANTORUM: Good morning, everybody. I'm Senator Rick Santorum, the chairman of the Republican Conference, and we are here to do a wrap-up of the first half of the 108th Congress. And we have some good news and we have some bad news --

SEN. FRIST (?): More good news.

SEN. SANTORUM: -- more good news than bad news. We've had a remarkably successful seven months, first seven months of this year, which will make a dramatic difference in the lives of Americans.

Unfortunately, we have a little bad news, and the bad news is the obstruction of the Democrats, particularly in the area of judges and some of the other important work that we're doing on medical liability and a few other issues that I will now turn over to our top two leaders—number one, who's had a great baptism of fire as his first seven months and has just done an absolutely outstanding job in getting this rather lethargic institution to move in a very positive direction. That's our leader, Bill Frist. Bill?

SEN. FRIST: Thank you. Rick, thank you.

And indeed it has been a remarkable seven months, in that we had a number of goals, we set out an agenda, and we are right on track to accomplishing that, that agenda.

Our leadership has introduced sort of several not new concepts, but concepts which we live by, that we apply, that we share with our colleagues, and that is to define a mission that is crystal-clear. And that mission is to move America forward and to do it in a way that serves the cause of liberty. We are accomplishing that mission by relationships and having all of our colleagues, both—on both sides of the aisle, understand that that's what we're all about.

Thirdly, we're doing it in a way that reflects certain values that I've shared with our leadership, our caucus, indeed the whole Senate, many of you, and that is civility—and that's tough sometimes, like yesterday morning on the floor—and trust. And I'm very pleased as we move those two values along. And the third and the fourth is that we're action-oriented. And as a surgeon, as one who depends on getting things done, in a very concrete way—means solutions, means action. It means fulfillment of the strategy, of the goals that are set out.

And with that—we're seven months in, we're going on our recess here shortly, and with that, if you look back at the range of things that we set out to do, with clear definition—as most of you know, like for energy, I said before the last recess that we were going to take the week prior to the August recess and we were going to spend it on energy; we were going to start early, we were going to go late, and we were going to deliver a bill to the American people. And indeed we have moved in that direction and were able to accomplish that goal.

So, setting goals out, having a strategy to get there, working in a cooperative way, in a civil way, fighting for principles, adequate time for debate and amendment, has allowed us through that approach to reach those goals.

And I won't go through all of those, and my colleagues will be commenting on a number of those, but if you look at several that all of you will remember—and I remember something about passing the budget. Kind of tough. It was kind of tough for leadership, maybe this person in leadership -- (inaudible) -- but we passed a budget.

Q Can you read from the podium, please?

SEN. FRIST: Excuse me?

Q Podium.

Q Podium.

SEN. FRIST: The what?

Q (Off mike.)

SEN. FRIST: Yes, we'll do that. Okay, Rick, I'm going to give you this because—not yet.

SEN. SANTORUM: You tell me when. (Laughter.)

SEN. FRIST: Pass a budget. Pass a budget. Just point to it up there. Pass a budget. It creates jobs. (Laughter.) As the man in charge, I get to do a few things. There's not very much power in this job, but a few things. So we got that. To create jobs for Americans through a jobs and growth bill. The fact that those -- (laughter) -- that those checks—pull that out of your pocket—those $400 checks are going out right now as we speak. (Laughter.)

SEN. SANTORUM: I haven't gotten mine yet. I'm waiting.

SEN. FRIST: Twenty-five million Americans are receiving that check, and 600,000 Tennesseans, which will make a difference, on top of the $600 child tax credit that they have received.

AIDS, right beneath that, HIV/AIDS. Help those who are suffering with HIV/AIDS. And again, I've said many times, and when we first said it in January, early on before the State of the Union message, a lot of people said, "Where is this? What is this AIDS issue all about?" And indeed, it's the largest moral, humanitarian and public health crisis of the last 100 years. We've stepped up, have addressed it, we passed legislation, and we'll fulfill the commitment of $15 billion. And I'll be going to Africa, actually, in an hour or so, a few hours, to see that firsthand, the results of that caring, that compassion reflected in this body and the American spirit.

Guarantee seniors prescription drug benefits under Medicare. Again, pleased with.

And then you look at the four boxes down below. And I will have—and Rick, if you happen to have a pen in your hand—Create and protect jobs by passing an energy bill. We did it last night, exactly now 12 hours ago. Five hundred thousand jobs, an energy bill that, when the president signs that energy bill, will be in essence a Bush- Domenici-Tauzin energy bill, comprehensive policy for the first time in a long period of time, a national policy that will not just create jobs—but that will be significant—but look at conservation, production, renewable sources, environmental issues. So, very, very pleased.

So, as you can tell, I am very pleased where we are—upbeat, optimistic. The leadership approach of having it mission-driven, relationship-based, value-centered and action-oriented is clicking. It takes cooperation on both sides of the aisle.

And with that, I thank my colleagues.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I don't think I've seen this occasionally surly group in a better mood than this morning. It must be time for recess. (Laughter.) I'm sure you really hate to see us going. (Laughter.) We'll miss you a lot, too, actually. (Laughter.)

As the leader and Rick indicated, it has been a, we think, remarkably successful year with the passing of prescription drugs, the passing of the budget, passing the president's growth and budget—growth and jobs proposal; certainly, the energy accomplishment of last night—all of those are things that are extremely important not only to Senate Republicans, but to all Americans, and I think, to many Democrats, as well.

But it is important to remember that we are confronted with a good deal of obstruction on very important measures. And I cite for one the medical liability crisis in the country. There are a growing number of states—well over 20 now—that have a serious crisis as a result of the rising cost of medical liability premiums for physicians. This is having a direct impact on the delivery of health care. We made an effort in the last month to bring that measure before the Senate. Every single Democrat voted to obstruct our ability to even take it up—to even bring it to the floor and to begin the debate on this very, very important health care issue.

So, on the one hand, we're optimistic about Medicare and prescription drugs—Medicare reform and prescription drugs moving forward, but we're not at all happy with the obstruction that we've seen demonstrated by the prevention of our even debating and amending and moving forward with the measure to do something about the medical liability crisis. So, there's much left to be done, and I would put that near the top of our list.

I do want to touch on one measure that isn't on the radar screens in this part of the world, but certainly is in Asia. The president did last Monday sign the Burma sanctions bill, which was big news out in Southeast Asia.

We are going to continue to focus on that regime out in Southeast Asia, which is much like Iraq, without the weapons of mass destruction. And Secretary Powell has indicated he's going to keep that near the top of the administration's agenda.

Finally, Senator Santorum is going to touch on the judicial crisis. Let me just say something about the Sixth Circuit. Senator Frist and I are in the Sixth Circuit. That's Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. Twenty-five percent vacant, because the two Michigan senators are holding up four nominees from Michigan—really, an incredible experience that we're all having here, really, without precedent in the Senate. Two senators from Michigan holding up their own nominees from their state, one of whom, Henry Saad, had a hearing this week. If confirmed, he would be the first Arab-American to sit on a circuit—U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States. This obstructionism simply must stop. It's having a direct impact on litigants in this country. And as we all learned—those of us who went to law school—pretty early, justice delayed is justice denied.

So, there's much left to be done. And we look forward to continuing with the unfinished business after Labor Day.

Thanks, Rick.

SEN. SANTORUM: Thanks, Mitch. And let me just pick up on the point that you left off on, and that is the issue of judges.

And we had a very bad week on judges here in the United States Senate. I think we hit—in an era these last few months where we've had new lows set when it comes to confirming judicial nominations, I think the blocking of Attorney General Bill Pryor for his, quote, "deeply-held beliefs," end quote, will be written about for a long, long time to come, and may fundamentally change the way judicial nominees are put forward and approved. To suggest, as virtually every one of the Democrats who argued against Attorney General Pryor, that because someone has "deeply-held beliefs" that they cannot be impartial is an insult to, first, our intelligence, because what do we want in the courts? A bunch of people with shallowly-held beliefs? Is that the alternative? That we want people who don't believe in anything, and that that's going to get better justice?

But the obvious overtones—that these are deeply held beliefs on moral issues—Attorney General Pryor's beliefs come from his religious beliefs.

And so we have set in motion something that our Founding Fathers would find absolutely despicable, so despicable they wrote it in the Constitution—a religious test for office in the United States of America. This is an abomination, something that I hope they will back off of and understand that this is not tolerant, in—using their virtuous words, but something that is unacceptable, an unacceptable course of inquiry for any judicial nominee. And unfortunately it looks like it (sic) may be just the first of many who will face this kind of scrutiny in the judicial process.

We have done some positive things, and we've heard some of them. One is, I'm very, very pleased that we were able to pass the president's growth package in May of this year. And we're seeing the effects. We saw growth begin to pick up a little bit. We hear Chairman Greenspan talk about potentially 3-1/2 or 4 percent growth in the second half of this year, saw the unemployment rate come down in this month. Checks are in the mail. Consumer confidence, we feel, is coming around. So there's a lot of good that's going to come from the economic policies, now a little over a year old, that we began here in the United States Senate, that we picked up on again with the president's stimulus package, growth package, job package that's already going to be paying dividends. So we're very excited about that.

We're excited about the compassion agenda. Bill mentioned Africa, the fact that we were able to pass the CARE Act here in the United States Senate, to help charitable giving at a time of economic distress. And the House is scheduled to bring that up in September, and we're very, very hopeful that we can get that passed and on the president's desk by the Thanksgiving break.

And finally, we've held the line on spending. We've seen high deficits. High deficits—a result of 9/11; high deficits as a result of a slowdown in the economy; high deficits—a result of the war on terrorism, the spending occurring on that; high deficits as a result of the war in Iraq. But we've been able to hold the line.

And this is a—our "spendometer" that we want to trot out again. Five hundred billion dollars is how much the Democrats, when it came to the appropriation bills we finished this year, plus the budget for this year—they offered half a trillion dollars in new spending—half a trillion dollars in new spending, at a time when we were facing these very high deficits as a result of true economic and global foreign policy problems.

And I have another chart. Do we have the second chart? The second chart is—we're going through the appropriations process now. And this was the spendometer on the homeland security bill; $16.8 billion. Now, that's a lot of money, and increases on the appropriation bill that was only $29 billion to begin with. So you're seeing an increase in this of over 50 percent of an increase in spending the Democrats proposed and, as you see, almost uniformly voted. Number of Democrats voting, almost uniformly voting for every single one of them.

So when you hear the complaints about the fiscal irresponsibility or the high deficits, realize that the deficits would be much worse if it wasn't for the great leadership of this team here to hold the line and get strong votes in opposition to even more irresponsible spending being offered by the other side.

Be happy to take your questions.

Q Senator Frist?

SEN. FRIST: Yes.

Q Two questions. Could you walk us through the circumstances surrounding your vitiation of the Carolyn Kuhl nomination today? Was that part of the—did the Democrats request that as part of a deal? And two, did you in fact make a mistake by scheduling all these judicial nomination votes, like many of your Republican colleagues said you did?

SEN. FRIST: The obstruction that we are seeing by the Democratic Party in the United States Senate directed to our judicial nominees, to the president's judicial nominees is unprecedented—the partisan filibusters that we are seeing—is unprecedented in American history. It affects the balance of power of our branches of government. It denies United States senators of the right to vote up or down on the president's nominees.

Our responsibility is advice and consent, and the Democrats are denying the way we give advice and consent, and that is to vote—up or down, yes or no. They're denying that opportunity on Miguel Estrada, on Priscilla Owen, on Attorney General William Pryor. And indeed, it probably would be that way with Carolyn Kuhl. I don't know that at this juncture. But unprecedented, three active filibusters underway.

I will fight that. As majority leader, as part of leadership, as part of our caucus, that being unprecedented, this partisan filibuster, I'm going to fight it. We're going to continue to fight it. We're not going to give up. I can promise you we're not going to give up. We're going to stay on it.

The votes that we scheduled this week were 20-minute votes. I asked for no time. The votes are simply to give us the right to debate it in the future, in September or October. The Democrats clearly did not want to complete an energy bill, in part because, if you look through this list, I have essentially set out with you and with our caucus, whether it was Medicare or energy bill, a strategy that says this is when we're going to address it on the floor, we're going to spend this much time on it, that's plenty of time for debate and amendment, and if we don't get there, we're not going to be successful doing it.

And I believe in my heart of hearts that the Democrats wanted to obstruct this energy bill; and that if Senator Daschle yesterday hadn't, off the cuff, at a time where he used me personally, sort of quoting colleagues but addressing me in a very direct way, off the cuff, mentioned—not intended—pulling out the old energy bill; and me calling his bluff. He opened the door. He didn't intend to. He said he didn't intend to. But with the support of—of—of Chairman Domenici, who immediately says "we're going to take it, that little door, we're going to take it, we're going to run right through it and we're going to show; we're going to end up with a Bush- Domenici-Tauzin bill and take advantage of that."

Once that happened, I knew that we had—and we didn't put on there you need to add on the Chile and Singapore trade agreements. For the first time since—since last year, since we sort of reauthorized this whole free—fast-track process, we passed the Chile and Singapore. I wanted to do that. They basically said, "If you bring that up, we're going to take down your energy bill; we're not going to let you pass it." They said, "If you bring up the judges, we're not going to let you pass your energy bill."

Well, priority number one—and this probably is from among many of you—is to make sure justice in the largest sense is done, and that addresses the judicial nominees. We're going to keep coming back. As part of the package of doing Chile and Singapore, getting five district judges which, if we had done Kuhl, we would not have done any of those district judges, and getting the energy bill done, and doing the supplemental—which, again has been difficult. We did it by unanimous consent last night. As part of that package, the decision was made to do the Kuhl nomination when we get back. And that's it. But it wasn't a specific request on their part.

Q If I could follow, so, you don't believe you made a mistake? If you had it to do all over again, you would the same way?

SEN. FRIST: I'd do—exactly. There's no question in my mind—you know, this is inside baseball, so the American people don't—the American people—what's important is we delivered an energy bill that will benefit Americans, that will go back to the simple mission: Move America forward. If we hadn't done certain things, that would not be the case. They spent 85 days on a bill, didn't take it to committee, didn't become law of the land last year. Now, I can—I can't promise you—I'm confident that we're going to have an energy bill that's going to be to the benefit of all of us because of the action.

No, it was the whole sequence of events. I think --

Q (Off mike.)

SEN. FRIST: That's right. It's the action-oriented, the solution-oriented—with a good bill, but a bill that's going to be rewritten in conference. They know—the Democrats know that, we know that, and we're going to write it. And it's going to be good policy.

No, the sequence of events was the whole thing, but it was part of strategy for us. I told the other side of the aisle that I wanted 20-minute votes on these cloture votes because of this unprecedented obstruction. I told the other side of the aisle and just laid it out: I want 20 minutes on -- 20 minutes a day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and told them who it was going to be, and just wanted to vote. Why? Because you see, what does the American people carry about, broadly? Look at the front page. Who covered energy on the front page, and who covered obstruction of justice on the front page? Why? And it's probably appropriate in many ways, because this obstruction of the justices is serious business that will change the next 20 years, 30 years, 50 years in this country. So obviously, I'm going to put out—I'm going to keep fighting that all the way through.

It got under their skin. (Chuckles.) You saw the reaction. It got under their skin. You can tell, just in all of you who are here, because they've got to be uncomfortable with what they're doing: denying us an up-or-down vote.

So, no. I probably should have done a little bit more.

Number two, I think a smart move on the part of the leadership was to file cloture the night before. And you're right. A lot of our colleagues said: Why in the world are you filing cloture on a package that I will say includes everything that we voted for—the electricity package, which I did two nights ago, and why? Because it puts on record who wants to move America forward with a bill: we, Republicans, saying, "Yes. Bring it to cloture. Let's bring debate to cloture; let's get a bill. The American people deserve it. We've been on it for a long time. It's the same old issues." It got under their skin. Why? Because they, with rhetoric—"Yes, let's finish this bill," were going to have to go on record, go home, and if they go home, saying, "No, let's don't bring this to cloture." And so, you put judicial obstruction—that's not going to be tolerated by the American people—side to side with them acting with a vote and saying that, "No, we're going to delay this bill"—those two things came together, that they took the best deal they could get.

So when Senator Daschle put the bill out there, and within 30 seconds I said, "We'll take it"—and obviously, over the course of the day, they thought that was a pretty good deal for them and, we felt, appropriate. So they can say they've won, and I know that we won, because I'll tell you what the bill's going to be like. It's going to be—I can promise you it's going to be a Domenici-Tauzin- Bush bill.

That's a long explanation, but that does summarize the last two days here.

Q But you look like they got under YOUR skin, too, a little, Senator.

SEN. FRIST: The American people won. It's very clear. Listen, this partisanship and the rhetoric that Senator Daschle opened with yesterday morning—it took me back a little bit, because I thought we could keep working together—it's fair. And in my response—and that's sort of big—you know, that part of it.

Over the course of the day, stability sat (sic) in. We caucused. Rick called a caucus in this room, talked through it. They obviously did the same thing. At the end of the day, because of the action, the American people won. Americans win.

I'd say the Republicans in our caucus were very successful. We accomplished—when you look through this list and you compare it to the last Congress, under Democratic leadership, the same ratios, nearly divided—no budget, no—really, no jobs and growth package, 11 of the 13 appropriation bills not done, and you see that we finished all of that, and then are accomplishing this—now, this—you know, we've got a long way to go. And it's still early. But the fact that we're on track to move America forward I'm very pleased with.

(Cross talk.)

Q (Inaudible) -- about these new job numbers, which show that there's as yet a continuing loss of jobs in the economy; that even though the unemployment rate is dropping, it's because of people who have just stopped looking for work. So it's a two-part question, really.

SEN. FRIST: Oh. Yeah, go ahead.

Q How concerned are you? And when will these policies that you've passed begin to have an impact?

SEN. FRIST: Well, I'll let Rick comment on the numbers. We were talking earlier about the numbers, so I know he knows them—the most recent numbers.

The jobs and growth package, over time—the way it was—the way it developed, instead of having sort of a five-year package, most of the investment, in terms of the tax, as well as the stimulus—the direct stimulus part, is in the first 18 months.

We're seeing an impact, I think, on the overall markets, on the optimism, on consumer—overall consumer confidence. The checks are just beginning to flow, so more money in people's pockets is taking place right now over the next several weeks, in terms of the $350 billion package.

I think we have to be very cautious in making predictions with the economy. The economy is going to continue to get better. We feel the economists—their estimates is good. What—our bottom line is jobs, because the economy is going to get better, but to make sure that they are translated into substantive jobs. We do that through the jobs and growth package. We do it by passing an energy bill which is going to—which we just did, which is going to create 500,000 jobs in a direct way. We do it by fiscal responsibility and not wasting money needlessly, and we do it by regulatory reform, all of which is part of our agenda.

Let me comment on the numbers, in a sense.

SEN. SANTORUM: Just on the numbers, I mean, the fact is that last month, the unemployment rate spiked because of people—more people entering the job market. I think that higher rate of unemployment tended to discourage some people, and some of them decided to back out, and that's why you see a lower number. I think everyone admits that this economy is still in transition and that we believe that the policies that we passed in May are going to have an impact—they're not going to have an impact before they take effect, and they haven't really started to take effect until July 1. So, it's hard to say that you're going to see a dramatic turnaround immediately.

The checks—the big stimulus this year is going to be the checks going out and some of the business tax relief. Those take a little time to get going, and you're seeing projections from a lot of analysts, including Alan Greenspan, of a 3-1/2 to 4 percent second half of this year. That is strong growth. That is much more encouraging.

The fact of the matter is, in a sense, we're a victim of our own success. We successfully cut off a recession that was underway in 2001 by passing the president's growth package. That nipped the recession in the bud, and when you do that and you have a shallow recession, you tend to have shallow recoveries. And we've had to do a lot more work than normally you'd have to do to get a recovery going because the recession was not as long and drawn out.

So, I think the economic policy has been right on, correct and aggressive, and the president has kept it front and center as his main priority on the domestic agenda, and he's going to continue to do so. And I think you're going to see the signs of success very shortly.

Q Senator, looking ahead, when you—when Congress returns in September, what do you see as the—as your priorities? And how do you see the prospects, given that in September, with the congressional and White House elections heating up, there might be well—maybe more partisanship than ever?

SEN. SANTORUM: Well, I'll let these two gentlemen hit on a few things.

Obviously, we have to do our appropriation bills and try to get that done and pass the appropriation bills on time.

I think the first order of business will be class action lawsuits—or, one of the first orders of business. We're going to try to get an agreement, and maybe Senator McConnell can talk about the asbestos litigation, which is a vitally important thing, which I believe will have a tremendous stimulative effect on the economy. I mean, you have litigation just tying our business community—not just the folks who came close to asbestos, but it seemingly is now having much broader impact and having a very deleterious impact on our economy. Those two measures are going to be very, very important measures that we're going to have to deal with.

I mentioned the faith-based initiative.

There's other issues, social conservative issues, that I care about deeply, which is partial birth, trying to get that conference report passed, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, that we hope to pass here in the fall.

I'll turn it over to Bill or Mitch.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I think you pretty well covered --

SEN. FRIST: Yeah. I think just specifically—and I'll go to the floor here shortly—we will come back the Tuesday after the holiday. We will go straight to Labor-HHS, and we will aggressively work that with Chairman Specter, Appropriations. And most of the month, for obvious reasons, our statutory responsibility is to finish the appropriation bills, and thus most of the month will be concentrated on appropriations. We'll see how long the labor bill takes. It is going to take some strong, strong leadership. It can be a very complex and contentious piece of legislation. But I did talk to the chairman this morning, and we're ready to go.

We will address class action at some point. You can't go anywhere in the country without the issue coming up, people talking about it. I don't know exactly when that will be, but sometime in September.

The other appropriation bills will follow labor. We will probably have a day of debate on partial-birth abortion.

We will continue to fight for the judges. This whole idea, which is just amusing—and it's got to be amusing to you who follow the Congress—that you can't walk and chew gum at the same time—in other words, you can't do judicial nominees while you're doing other business—is absurd. Absurd. And it's—people get suckered into that.

SEN. MCCONNELL: It's always been done.

SEN. FRIST: It's always been done. That's right. And dual- tracking here. And to think that Congress can't do sort of two issues is just absurd. And in order to get the nation's business done, and as people develop more and more confidence that this body can really do it, and do it in a way that probably is different than the past, I think people will understand that and will encourage it.

So the judges are going to be out there, and you're going to hear—if they continue to filibuster, they continue to obstruct, they're going to have to defend it, and by some way we're going to end up breaking through that. So it will be appropriations month. We'll come to labor first. And then the class action.

The asbestos issue, it is—will have a huge economic impact. The various constituencies around the country feel strongly that something can be done. Members on both side of the aisle believe and know that something can be done. It will take legislation. It will take action by the United States Senate. And we will do it. Don't know when, and we are talking—I talked to Senator Daschle about it yesterday who is committed, their leadership is. Orrin Hatch, Chairman Hatch has demonstrated great leadership in the Judiciary Committee. Very important bill. So at some point, we will addressing that.

Q Senator Frist.

(Cross talk.)

SEN. FRIST: Let go to someone else real quick, and I'll come back.

STAFF: Last question.

Q Senator Frist, do you plan to bring on changing filibuster rules to the floor?

SEN. FRIST: The issue of filibuster vote—I have an amendment which would change the Senate rules. It does take two-thirds of the United States Senate to pass such legislation to change the rules. And the rules would be for cloture a 60-vote, then 57-vote, then 54- vote, then 51-vote and then majority of those present and voting in order to allow an up-or-down vote, which I would argue that each of these nominees deserve and to give advice and consent. That has gone through committee. It is ready to take to the floor. And we'll see how it goes.

I have a hard time believing that the Democrats are going to continue filibustering one; bringing another up; filibustering them; filibustering again and again and again. Again, I'm not—we can't tolerate that as an American people. One of the tools that we have is to take that to the floor to debate it, and that's just an option that we have at this juncture. We'll not—we'll not do that till September.

Q (Off mike.)

SEN. FRIST: Let me—let me just answer the one Medicare question just because—since I cut you off. The Medicare is going well. It's—again, I read the writing and many people talk to individuals who say it can't be done. Impossible. Too partisan. Too far to the right. Too far to the left. Let me just say, that's what everybody said when we took over the United States Senate, everybody. Everybody said, "We've been through this year after year. You can't get a Medicare bill through here." We did it in a bipartisan way. We lost 10 or 11 Republicans; we lost 10 or 11 Democrats. Not a perfect bill. But it's the best that this body can do based on the available information that we have today with the recognition that health care security for seniors has to involve prescription drugs and should involve choice that allows individuals with disabilities or seniors to be able to choose health care plans that best suit their needs, like other federal employees can.

The House, a little bit different approach. That's what conference is all about. Chairman Bill Thomas is doing a great job. Vice chairman or Co-chairman—or whatever it is called officially—Chuck Grassley on our side's doing a great job. There will be a lot of work over the August recess. We'll come back, and although nobody has put a deadline in my mind, we need to finish this by the end of September, and that means a lot of work over August. We have been meeting every day, every day, formally, informally, every day on this particular issue. So I'm confident that we're going to be able to put a bill that the president can sign—put a bill on his desk that the president can sign.

(Cross talk.)

SEN. FRIST: Is that it?

STAFF: (Off mike.)

SEN. FRIST: Okay, good. Thank you all.

END

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