Monitor Breakfast: Tom Daschle

Selected quotations from a Monitor Breakfast with Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-SD).

On the stimulus bill the House passed late Wednesday:

"We only have three problems with the ...House version passed last night: content, simulative value, and cost. Other than that we think it is a pretty good bill. ...It is sobering to think that every dollar we are going to spend on this comes from the Social Security and Medicare trust Funds. ...

"There is nothing that divides our parties more than economic policy. That is really, in many respects, the basis for identity in our two parties. And so you can expect when it comes to economic policy and questions relating to the role of government, you are going to have very divisive debate. It is not an accident that this is divisive. It happens every time. ...But we have accomplished a lot despite our deep divisions on economic policy. And I expect we will continue to do so."

On his relationship with President Bush:

"I have a cordial personal relationship with the president. He and I have been able to talk in spite of our differences. We have developed a closer relationship since he instituted the weekly breakfast meetings. I think they have been very helpful, they have been informative. They have allowed us to stay abreast of developments in the war in Afghanistan and be briefed on all of the efforts of our country abroad, especially in the war on terrorism. And they have allowed a more thoughtful discussion among the leaders of domestic issues before the Congress. That does not mean we will walk out of the Oval Office in agreement. Obviously that has not happened. But we have been able to maintain that cordial relationship in spite of the fact that we have these deep differences of opinion."

On Attorney General Ashcroft and terrorism and tribunals:

"I take exception to some of his statements. But generally I think the administration is on the right track. We have expressed some concern about the military tribunals but of course we really don't know how they are going to be used. We have not seen the regulatory regimen that will be applied. Generally we believe the tribunals will have a purpose in certain circumstances and we are willing to examine those on a case by case basis. We are very concerned about the balance that has to be achieved ensuring adequate protection of civil rights and liberty but at the same time we need to invoke what authority may be required to assure we bring these terrorists to justice."

On reports anthrax sent to his office came from a US military research program:

"I don't know that we have definitive evidence to suggest that it came from US facilities but I think there is a real possibility that your assumption is correct. I can't think of a reason why we should be supportive of further anthrax production. Clearly anthrax research is lacking. We know so little about what to do with regard to exposure to anthrax. My staff is enduring a lot of uncertainty in large measure because we don't have answers. And that is something that concerns me greatly."

On calls for the US military to strike Iraq:

"I think a strike against Iraq at this time would be a mistake. I think it could seriously complicate circumstances in the Middle East. I think it could have just the opposite effect - I think it could give the Islamic community a substantial degree of concern about the direction of US foreign policy that I think warrants great care. I would hope we would be very careful about any overt military attack. I do think we have to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein . But I think we have to do it in a collective way. I think it is important for us to work with our Arab allies and with the Islamic community and generally within our established military infrastructure before we come to any conclusions about the direction we ought to take with Iraq."

On the danger of unilateral action in foreign policy:

"I have warned (as others have) about taking unilateral action in foreign policy in the past and I still believe that it is a very dangerous approach now. It would seem to me that whatever we do, we need to do it together. We need to do it in a way that will not undermine other equally as important goals and responsibilities of the United States in the region and around the world."

On Bush administration information policies:

"We have to be concerned about the early indications from this administration of their unwillingness to share information and to provide it not only to the Congress but to the media. It seems to me that is so fundamental to our democracy - open and responsible government. Transparency in government is essential. And unless we have that transparency we lose a lot. I don't think it is a matter we can take lightly. So while we have not decided on our course of action we intend to revisit this question and pursue it next year."

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