Remarks by the President in Photo Opportunity Before Cabinet Meeting (9/28/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release              September 28, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                                    The Cabinet Room

3:05 P.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  Is everyone in?  Good.  Well, as you can see,
we're about to have a Cabinet meeting, the primary purpose of which is to
discuss the budget negotiations that will be going on now until the end of

          Two weeks ago, I met with congressional leaders in this room, and
we pledged to use the short time left in the fiscal year to do some
important things for the American people, to resolve our differences on a
host of issue, to put progress over partisanship.

          Since then, the Senate has passed normal trade relations with
China legislation, and I applaud that.  But beyond that, nothing has been
done to finally raise the minimum wage, pass hate crimes legislation and a
real patients' bill of rights, pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit
for our seniors, to enact the New Markets legislation.  The leadership
promised action, but so far the results don't show it.

          Now there are just two days to go in the fiscal year and only 2
of the 13 appropriations bills have passed that are so necessary to keep
our government running.  Still the Congress hasn't provided the funds to
help build and modernize our schools, to continue to hire 100,000 new
qualified teachers for smaller classes in the early grades, to improve
teacher quality and strengthen accountability so that we can identify
failing schools, turn them around, shut them down, or put them under new
management.  And nothing has been done to fund the largest gun enforcement
initiative in history to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and
children, something that Republicans have said that we ought to do more of.

          Right now another important decision is pending in Congress, even
as we meet here.  The Congress is choosing whether or not to lower the
national drunk driving standard to .08 percent blood alcohol content, a
move that we know from the experience of states that have already done it
could save hundreds of lives every single year in the United States.  I
know that Congress is, as always, under a lot of interests group pressure
not to do this, but I hope, for the sake of highway safety and human life,
they will.

          Later this week, Congress will send me a short-term budget
resolution.  I expect I'll sign it so that we can continue to meet our
responsibilities to the American people.  But I ask Congress to finish the
work they were sent here to do.  Let's sit down for serious negotiations on
a budget that preserves fiscal discipline, invests in our people, and
produces real results and real progress for America.

          I'd also like to say a few words about our efforts to hold
tobacco companies accountable.  Today the court ruled that our case
alleging the tobacco companies were engaged in fraud in marketing tobacco
can go ahead, although not on the other counts.  This remains a very
important opportunity for the American people to have their day in court
against big tobacco and its marketing practices.  I urge Congress to
provide the funding to allow the lawsuit to move forward, and not to shield
the tobacco industry from the consequences of its actions.

          Thank you very much.

          Q    Mr. President, the Republican leadership would like to
attach certain provisions and amendments to the minimum wage bill which are
opposed by organized labor.  Would you sign the bill if it came to you with
their additions to it?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don't believe that we ought to lower the
pay of many tens of thousands of Americans under present federal law to
raise the pay of people who plainly deserve a minimum wage.  I do not
believe the minimum wage should be a vehicle to wreck fair labor standards
that have been well established in our law and that could not be repealed
on their own.

          I think some tax relief for small business is appropriate.  The
initial package was more than three times as high as the one that Congress
attached when we raised the minimum wage in 1996.  And if we're going to
have that much tax relief, then I want to talk about what it's going to be
and who is going to benefit.

          But this Congress has some interesting priorities.  It didn't
take them any time to repeal the estate tax or to pass other big tax cuts
that benefitted people in very high income levels, but they can't seem to
get around to raising the minimum wage.  The last time we raised the
minimum wage they said that it would hurt unemployment, hurt the economy,
hurt the small businesses of the country.  We set a new record for small
business starts every year since.  We've got a 30-year low in unemployment.
This is just a simple question of whether we're going to give 10 million
hardworking Americans a chance to have a decent life and to take care of
their children in a decent way.  And I hope they'll pass it.

          Q    Mr. President, if you're convinced, as you said a couple of
minutes ago, that Yugoslav opposition has made a persuasive case that
they've won the election outright, why have you not explicitly called for
Mr. Milosevic to step down?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I thought we did say that.  I think when
the head of the Serb church says that he considers Mr. Milosevic's opponent
to be the new President of Yugoslavia, I think it's -- and when the
commission that is totally under the thumb of the government, without any
outside observers, even they acknowledge that he won 49 to 39 or 38 percent
-- and when they have evidence that by no means all the votes for the
opposition candidate were counted, I think that's a pretty good case that
it's time for democracy and for the voices of the people of Serbia to be
heard.  And that's what I think should happen.

          And as I said, when that happens, I would strongly support
immediate moves to lift the sanctions.

          Q    Mr. President, the abortion drug RU 486 was approved for
sale today.  Is that fight finally over?  And why did it take so long?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this administration treated
that issue as purely one of science and medicine.  And the decision to be
made under our law is whether the drug should be approved by the FDA on the
grounds of safety.  And I think that they bent over backwards to do a lot
of serious inquiries.

          And Secretary Shalala can explain it in greater detail than me,
but there's a long history here about why it took so long, but the FDA is
basically is basically doing its job -- it's now done its job.  And I
regret that some members of the other party apparently have already tried
to politicize it.  I note Dr. Healey, who was the NIH Commissioner under
President Bush, said that she agreed with the decision of the FDA.  And I
think it ought to be treated as the scientific and medical decision it was,
and we should respect the fact that it was a non-political inquiry and that
they took so long to try to make sure they were making a good decision.

          MR. LOCKHART:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, thank you.

          Q    How do you think that affects the debate over abortion?  And
do you think a Bush administration will try to overturn it?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Why don't you ask him that question?  You should
ask him that question, not me.  I think that's for the people that are out
there running to answer.

          MR. LOCKHART:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

                           END         3:14 P.M. EDT

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