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Media Stakeout Following Senate Policy Luncheon

Location: Washington, DC

SEN. SANTORUM: Good afternoon, everybody. We had a good discussion today in our conference, talking about the plans for this week. We are moving forward on both trying to get the supplemental finished this week as well as, obviously, trying to pass the budget. Right now we also brought up Judge Priscilla Owen. She will remain on the floor until she is disposed with, hopefully in a favorable fashion. We are hopeful that the other side, the Democrats, will not filibuster her nomination. But we are resolute in -- as we have been on Miguel Estrada, in keeping her name on the calendar and front and center in order for her to get an up or down vote on confirmation. But the first order of business is to support our troops with the supplemental. There's $60 billion in there for our troops, another $5 billion or so for homeland security. We're working with the House right now and trying to come up with a compromise between the two provisions, as we are working with the House to get a compromise on the budget. And those negotiations are in full swing right now, and we are hopeful that -- well, we're not hopeful. We will finish by Friday.

And with that, let me turn it over to Chairman Warner to fill in on some of the military issues.

SEN. WARNER: Very briefly, every one of us every day in the United States Senate express in our hearts or in other ways condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and to those who are missing, and, of course, those who bear the wounds of war.

This morning in our briefing, which we do every day at 9:00, I asked that we be joined by the senior officers here in the Pentagon from Great Britain. And I specifically inquired of them about the battle plan and were they consulted and were they satisfied.

And I think I can share with you without any hesitation, there was full consultation with Great Britain's military hierarchy in the preparation of this plan. And they all think it has gone exceedingly well, as I and others do. I'm about to get on a conference call momentarily with the secretary of Defense, which I do frequently with some other senators, regarding matters before my committee.

But on the whole, I think every American is deeply grateful for the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform, whether they are privates or corporals or sergeants or captains and lieutenants and generals. It's been a superb operation in terms of professionalism, the jointness between our services -- air, land and sea -- and our work with coalition forces.

Thank you.

SEN. LUGAR: Let me just make a further comment endorsing all that Senator Warner has said about our troops and the efforts in the war to say that even now, as you have observed, we are working on what happens next. I think it's significant that the president has been involved in personal diplomacy in Northern Ireland with the prime minister of Great Britain and Condoleezza Rice has gone to see President Putin in Russia. Secretary Powell had 21 one-on-one visits at NATO headquarters with each of our European allies last week, and likewise a visit to Turkey before that. This diplomacy is significant, and hopefully will reach at least some conclusions as to how an interim government of Iraq will occur. I will not make a prediction today, but I would suggest that the military action still goes on, and that our military commanders will have to provide security, and they will have to provide some governance until there is peace in the country. Beyond that, it's apparent that NATO will play a role, that at some point the United Nations will play an important role, obviously Americans will play a very important leadership role, along with our allies who have fought the war.

And the sorting out of these roles, what everyone is willing to do, who will pay for it, the international legitimacy of a currency, of the oil management, of these affairs, is very important, because Iraq must not be a failed state. It must not be an incubator for al Qaeda cells or anyone else who is involved in the terrorist movement in a way in which allegedly Afghanistan was after action ceased a decade or so ago.

So these are things that are much on our minds. We had a good Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the future of NATO this morning that involved not only the seven new members -- and there's general unanimous support, I think, for their inclusion, and hopefully a debate in the Senate, maybe the week of May the 5th, on the NATO treaty -- but likewise a significant discussion between General Wes Clark and William Kristol about our general foreign policy, how NATO and other nations fit into that.

And I know Chairman Warner is going to have a significant hearing on Thursday in his committee. We are all taking seriously our role in the Congress, not only of oversight but also constructive suggestion.

SEN. WARNER: Could I add one further thought, Chairman Lugar? We're very proud of the way our president and Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the issues of post-conflict. And I've said all along -- and I believe that they're of the same mind -- that the United Nations should be a partner, but not necessarily the managing partner. For the -- certainly the initial phases, the member nations of the coalition will likely be the managing partners, but the U.N. will play a vital and important role.

Q Senator Lugar, there have been reports that you'd been concerned about consultation of yourself and others in Congress about postwar plans for Iraq and what might be going on. And there's also concerns here about how the money's going to be spent, who gets to spend it. Are you now feeling better about that? Can you share your thoughts about how things are going now, as opposed to perhaps before?

SEN. LUGAR: Well, I -- the consultations still need to take place, and I'm just reporting that whether they're taking place or not, we're active. We have suggestions. We're listening up to what others are doing, what the president and Prime Minister Blair, for example, come up with, what Condoleezza Rice and President Putin or others. Obviously, those are very important decision-makers.

But at the same time, I hope that we'll have stronger consultation with Armed Services and Foreign Relations and the Intelligence Committees, others that are on the firing line, really, of providing some authorization and maybe ultimately some money for these events.

Q Is there a concern about who finally at some point runs Iraq, to the extent that there seem to be reports the Pentagon favors a single individual and the State Department favors a series of people to co-lease or something. Do you have any thoughts about that?

SEN. LUGAR: We're trying hard not to get into a rundown of internal administration conversations. And I would characterize them as "conversations" as opposed to "disputes." At some point, the president of the United States will make decisions. He's had a good batting average thus far, and I'm confident he'll make some good ones.

SEN. WARNER: We're having a hearing on Thursday with the Armed Services Committee, in consultation with my colleague, the chairman of the Foreign Relations, on the precise role of the Department of Defense in post-conflict. It will be the deputy secretary of Defense, and we're going to be joined by the NATO commander, General Jones.

Q Senator Santorum, if I could ask you: Roll Call reports that you and Senator Nickles had a rather heated discussion on Friday night regarding the amount of the president's tax cut. And I'd like to ask you, sir: If members of your own party disagree about the amount, and given the situation that you've had so much trouble getting through things like ANWR, disagreement on the airline assistance package, what is it your party needs to do to help this president to shepherd through his domestic agenda? And does he need to rethink exactly what he wants out of his economic package?

SEN. SANTORUM: Well, first off, Senator Nickles and I both agree that we should try to get as much of the president's growth package, job-creation package, in the budget as possible. You know, we -- as Senator Lugar just alluded to, with conversations -- internal conversations in the White House on subject areas as to how do you get to what you want to accomplish, and there's obviously a variety of different opinions on tactics and strategy to get you to where you want to go; but I can say without question, Senator Nickles and I want to get to the same place, and how we get there is really the question.

And we're working at that diligently. We're trying to provide the president with what he has outlined is important for our economy, and that's to pass some things here in the Congress to create more jobs. We're talking about 1.4 million new jobs over the next couple of years this economy desperately needs, and we're going to do our best to try to get as much of that as possible and we're committed to that.

Q On that subject, sir, on the budget meeting apparently you just had in there, have you determined yet whether you will have the votes to pass a budget conference report that contains more than $350 billion in reconciled tax cuts, or are you now determined -- have you found out that you cannot pass more than that, based on the votes --

SEN. SANTORUM: We are continuing to work to see if we can maximize the growth package, because in the end, the most important thing right now that we can do for the American public is create jobs.

This economy is not doing as well as we'd like it to do and our number one priority with this budget is to create jobs. So we're going to continue to work to get that number as high as possible.

Q Have you gotten the votes from either the moderate Republicans or any of the Democrats that you need?

SEN. SANTORUM: If we had the votes, I wouldn't be out here saying we're still talking about it. (Laughter.)

Q Senator, do you need to go to this president --

SEN. SANTORUM: Yes, right here. I beg your pardon?

Q If I could just follow, please. Do you need to go to this president and say, "We can't get this much; we need to come up on this much or come down on this much"?

SEN. SANTORUM: We're going to the best we can to get as much as we possibly can. And the president's been working very closely with us to try to help us get as much as we possibly can.

SEN. WARNER: Good. Yes?

Q Senator, how long do you think it will take to ascertain Saddam's status? And how confident are you in the methods, through DNA and other methods, to be able to make a positive identification?

SEN. WARNER: I think at this point in time, you should rely totally on the comments that are coming from CENTCOM. I share them, as do you -- perhaps some additional information, but CENTCOM are the ones that are tasked with the responsibility of answering those questions.

Q How much -- (off mike) -- if he's alive or dead?

SEN. WARNER: What did he say?

SEN. SANTORUM: How much -- (inaudible) -- make if he's alive or dead?

SEN. WARNER: Oh. We don't have the time to discuss that out here. (Laughter.) Clearly, it's to the advantage of all to ascertain with certainty that Saddam Hussein is either alive or dead, because the sooner that can be achieved, the sooner the people of Iraq can suddenly become, I hope, far more cooperative in aiding the coalition forces to bring about a cessation of the hostilities and, hopefully, the location of the caches of weapons of mass destruction.

Thank you.

Q Would it concern you at all, though, that -- you said the U.N. is going to be a managing partner. Can you elaborate on that at all? And does it concern you --

SEN. WARNER: That's my view. And I've expressed that for some -- week or so now. And I think it's very important. Look at the experience we had in the Balkans. I think my distinguished chairman would share with me the fact that the indecision with regard to exactly who is in charge in the Balkans, and it has dragged on now for a dozen years. And we had similar problems in Kosovo, of making the various allies live up to their commitments to deliver certain things, to bring about the alleviation of suffering in that country. We don't have the time that we've experienced in the Balkans to correct the Iraqi situation and to bring about economically the infrastructure, health, any number of glaring necessities, such that the Iraqi people can take control of a government of their own choosing as soon as possible.

Q Despite the president's strong --

SEN. LUGAR: I would just add to that that there clearly are going to be discussions as to the interim steps that you need to get to the U.N. Many have pointed out that U.N. administrations or management are rather lumbering in getting underway. Now, this is a situation of fluid activity moving from the military to places that are peaceful, and that is probably going to require U.S. military, then a coalition involving Iraqi leaders, both there now and exiled, allies, NATO people, a good number of interim steps, and then cooperation by the U.N. In other words, the Security Council finally has to be able to vote without veto to manage the food and oil, or to do other things that are integral to the success of the country.

Q So would the Pentagon need some of that $2-1/2 billion -- (off mike) ?

SEN. LUGAR: Well, some part of our government may need the two and a half billion that have been asked for. And there is a discussion as to who ought to be the controlling factor: White House, State, Defense, some combinations of --

SEN. WARNER: Why don't you wind it up?

Q What do you think --

Q Senator, the president's package almost unanimously --

SEN. WARNER: All right, we're not hearing very clearly, because --

Q The senators had almost -- the president had almost unanimous support on the war up here on Capitol Hill, but the domestic agenda has not been going as well, whether it be the tax cut or ANWR or any of those other issues. Do you think that after successful conclusion of this war that the president will be able to focus again on the domestic agenda, that he'll have more luck getting through his domestic --

SEN. WARNER: Well, I don't feel myself that the president has not given full attention to the domestic agenda, and at the same time, full attention to the conflict in Iraq. But I leave that to our elected leaders.

Q But will he be more successful -- he has not been successful up here over the last couple of months on the domestic agenda. Will he be more successful after making --

SEN. SANTORUM: All -- all I would suggest is that we are -- we're trying right now in the process of getting this budget. And we are working very closely with the administration to do as well as we can. ANWR, as you know, we've never been successful in the United States Senate. We were as close as we've ever been in this last vote. And there will be -- as there is in every presidency, there will be successes and failures, and what we're trying to do is to try to get as good a package as we can in this budget, and that will be a success.

You got to remember six months ago, when the president came out with a $300 billion idea of a growth package, that was panned as being too much, and now we're at 350 (billion). So, you know, we -- if the president, as he does, he tries to -- he shoots high, he does what he thinks is the best, and we -- at this point, we may have to settle for less than that.

Thank you.

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