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Kelly Wallace: Bush heads to ranch one last time before presidency

CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace is reporting from Austin, Texas, on the transition of President-elect George W. Bush.

Q: What are President-elect Bush's plans on this last weekend before assuming the presidency?

WALLACE: George W. Bush will be spending his last weekend as president-elect at his Texas ranch, packing boxes and preparing for his trip to Washington and his Inaugural address.

According to Bush aides, the president-elect is pretty close to finalizing his speech that he will give on January 20 and will be practicing on his delivery this weekend. Aides won't say much about the speech, but they do describe it as a speech about unity and about bringing the country together.

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So, Mr. Bush will be at his ranch through the weekend. On Monday, he will head to Houston to do an event commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He will also visit a Houston school along with his education secretary designate, Roderick Paige, Houston's school superintendent.

Then, his only other event is Wednesday. Before he heads to Washington, Bush plans to head first back to his home of Midland, Texas, for a sendoff event.

Q: What's the Bush team doing in preparation for tax cuts and campaign-finance reform, possibly two of the first legislative issues they deal with on the Hill?

WALLACE: The Bush team is putting the final touches on Bush's legislative agenda and we should certainly hear Mr. Bush articulate that agenda, at least in broad strokes, in his Inaugural address.

But the Bush team is saying the legislative agenda is basically the same agenda that the president-elect campaigned on. They are sticking to the $1.3 trillion tax-cut package; they are sticking with education reform and accountability in schools; they also aren't backing away from the possibility of pursuing school vouchers, subsidies for private schools that would go to parents if they felt their children weren't getting the education they need in public schools.

The agenda is also to focus on defense and pay raises for the military, as well as prescription drugs.

What's interesting is the Bush team is basically keeping the same pledges he campaigned on. Republican sources say the president-elect is not going to bargain away on these various position. He's going to maintain his ground, present them to Congress and then make concessions.

Q: Has the reality sunk in yet with the Bush team that they'll be working for the president of the United States next week?

WALLACE: The reality seems to be setting in for the Bush team. They've closed down the Austin offices, which had been open for more than 18 months, serving as the campaign headquarters and then serving as the transition headquarters.

Many people are making their way to Washington, buying houses, renting apartments and packing up boxes. So, you get the sense from aides that they realize in just a matter of days, their new boss will be the president and the new administration will be under way.


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Friday, January 12, 2001


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