THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:29 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Good morning. Prime Minister Rabin arrives at roughly 10:30 a.m. There will be a photo op in the Oval Office. The two will meet privately and then in an expanded group. At 12:30 p.m. they'll go over to the Residence for lunch. And at roughly 2:00 p.m. they'll be in the East Room for a news conference. At that is the sum total of the President's public schedule today.
Q Are there any travel plans for the President this week to view damage? That's a rumored --
MS. MYERS: No, nothing along those lines. I think you can look for a travel day toward the end of the week -- probably Friday.
Q Day trip?
MS. MYERS: Day trip.
Q On economic --
MS. MYERS: Same general -- the details haven't been worked out yet, and we'll make those available as soon as they're ready. But it's continuing in the same vein, economic plan.
Q Is it fairly near by or are we talking about change of time zones?
MS. MYERS: We're still working on it. It will be -- I don't expect we'll go to the West Coast.
Q Do you have any comment on the news stories over the weekend portraying the President's trip on Friday as less than successful?
MS. MYERS: I think we feel it was very successful. It was an opportunity for the President to meet with the troops as Commander-in-Chief. I think he got a good reception from the crew aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, had a chance to meet with the skipper of the ship and the admiral that were there. It was an excellent opportunity for him.
Q Do you think he changed any minds about people's opinions of him?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't know that it was intended to change people's minds. People are certainly entitled to their own opinions and to vote as they see fit. He is the Commander-in-Chief. He does support the military. He's going to continue to work with the military so that we have an effective, strong fighting force, as he made clear in his remarks there. And I think that we'll continue to do that.
Q What does he expect to accomplish today in the meeting with Rabin?
MS. MYERS: I think they'll talk about a number of things -- the ninth round of bilateral negotiations scheduled to start here on April 20th; aid generally; and just regional and security interests in general.
Q Is he prepared to press Rabin on the deportee issue?
MS. MYERS: I suspect it will come up. They'll continue to talk about it. Obviously, they're going to talk about, again, the ninth round of the bilateral talks which are scheduled to start here next month.
Q But is it the administration's feeling that talks won't be able to proceed unless the deportee issue -- talks won't be able to make any progress unless the deportee issue is resolved?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that we're very hopeful that all sides will come back to the negotiating table. As you know, we've issued the invitations and we're hopeful that all sides will come to Washington on the 20th.
Q Well, what do you hear?
MS. MYERS: We'll let the President and the Prime Minister discuss that this afternoon.
Q Is there a possibility that the U.S. is going to have to cut back on aid to Israel? Is that one of the things he's going to be discussing?
MS. MYERS: No. The President's committed to the ongoing level of aid for Israel and Egypt.
Q No matter what they do?
MS. MYERS: We're committed to that level of aid.
Q But one of the cuts in the President's budget is in foreign aid. Does that mean that --
MS. MYERS: That will not affect aid to Israel.
Q Dee Dee, the Palestinians and the other Arab representatives in the talks seem to think that there were certain commitments made by Christopher and Kozyrev that have not been lived up to, and that's why they're not responding to the invitations, or the Palestinians haven't even accepted theirs. Are there things that need to be done that this meeting today may move forward?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, they'll discuss a range of issues today, and we're hopeful that the Arab countries will attend the peace talks on the 20th. As you know, they have a meeting scheduled for later this month, but we're hopeful that all sides will come to Washington for the ninth round.
Q But is there something that the administration believes it still must do, should do, might to do convince them to come along?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, the Prime Minister and the President will discuss that, and we're hopeful that all sides will come to the negotiating table.
Q Has the President had any communication with any Russian officials this weekend or with Boris Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of, no.
Q Has he gotten any reporting back from the Hong Kong meeting?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the exact status of that is. There has certainly been some contact, and it will be ongoing. I don't know who -- if the President's talked to anyone directly. I don't believe that he has.
Q Who represented the United States there? Was Lloyd Bentsen there?
MS. MYERS: No, it was deputy -- I'll get back to you on the exact names.
Q Has the United States received any kind of direct assurance from the Russians in terms of the safety of nuclear weapons?
MS. MYERS: Well, Secretary Aspin commented on that yesterday and said we have no reason to believe that -- we believe that Yeltsin is in control of the nuclear arsenal.
Q In Russia?
MS. MYERS: In Russia, correct.
Q Not in another --
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q Has the President received any requests for assistance from the states as a result of this winter storm over the weekend?
MS. MYERS: We received a disaster request from Florida, which was granted, for I believe 21 counties. And then there was an emergency request from Tennessee which was granted last night. We expect up to 18 or 19 additional requests today -- as many as -- I don't know how many will come in -- for either disaster or emergency relief. And we're trying to expedite those as quickly as possible.
Q How many? Eighteen?
MS. MYERS: Eighteen or nineteen -- up to 18 or 19.
Q States -- 18 or 19 states?
MS. MYERS: States. For two levels of aid: disaster or emergency.
Q What's the difference?
MS. MYERS: Emergency is basically for snow removal, and disaster is other forms of direct relief, as Florida had requested. Loss of life and property damage.
Q The one from Tennessee was emergency?
MS. MYERS: Tennessee was emergency.
Q Back to Rabin. This is more or less just a gettogether meeting, isn't it, where he's going to reiterate our support for Israel and current policies? There's no special topic, is there?
MS. MYERS: No. I mean, this was part of an ongoing -- this is the first attempt -- chance that they've had to sit down together and discuss a wide range of issues, obviously regional and security issues as well as the peace talks.
Q Dee Dee, while you say that the level of aid is going to stay the same for Israel and Egypt, would the administration like to see Israel take certain internal economic steps to make it less dependent on aid from the United States?
MS. MYERS: I think I'll let the President discuss that with the Prime Minister, and you can feel free to question them about that this afternoon.
Q What leverage does the President have if he keeps aid and promises aid, and it's just his moral -- what -- persuasion? What is it that he's going to use to try to start the peace talks again?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think Israel's agreed to come to the table. That's not a problem.
Q Has she agreed to let the people go back to their homes?
MS. MYERS: As you know, there's an agreement -- was reached when Secretary Christopher was in the Middle East last month that does have a timetable for returning the deportees. We think that's acceptable.
Q That timetable, how far does it go?
MS. MYERS: Within the next year.
Q With the hearings starting this morning on the base closings, how does the administration respond to Republican charges that by striking a couple of California bases at the last minute, the President has injected politics into the procedure and thus compromised the --
MS. MYERS: Absolutely false. As the President made exceedingly clear, he has no real -- has had no impact on the list; didn't even see the list until it was released publicly. What he did instruct Secretary Aspin to do was to consider the overall economic impact. Since each of the branches was asked to present a list of -- a priority list for base closings to the Secretary, it was impossible for them to assess what the cumulative impact might have been as the other branches made their recommendations. The President reiterated to Secretary Aspin to consider the aggregate economic impact, which is required by law. When you look at the previous two rounds of base closings, plus the economic state of California, Secretary Aspin made a decision to close a certain number of bases in California. Politics did not play a role.
Q A couple of logistical questions. Is May 1st the hard and fast deadline on the health care report?
MS. MYERS: No. What the President has said is that it would be roughly a hundred days. He wouldn't be upset if it was a day or two, give or take.
Q Have you given any thought to how you're going to release it or what kind of program -- is it going to be similar to what you did with the economic stimulus package?
MS. MYERS: It will depend on what final decisions are made. As we get closer to the beginning of May, we'll have more information about that.
Q And also, the forest conference, I know it's in Portland, but do you know where? Do you have a location yet?
MS. MYERS: No, we're continuing to work out the details. And as they become available, we'll let you know.
Q It might be two days now?
MS. MYERS: We're looking at one day right now. I don't expect it will be two.
Q Is managed competition definitely the policy?
MS. MYERS: As you know, it was something that the President talked about throughout the campaign, moving in that direction and maintaining a market-based system as opposed to a single-payer system. But we want to work with all of the health care providers and advocates and insurers and others to find a solution that's acceptable to all sides.
Q Doesn't that have a shade of the old Quayle council?
MS. MYERS: I see no correlation between our health care reform and Quayle's council.
Q Managed competitiveness?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe what Quayle's council promoted was managed competitiveness. I think what his council was, was a back-door on environmental and other regulations.
Q But it was managed.
MS. MYERS: It wasn't managed, it was --
Q You already won, Dee Dee. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Helen's comparison, not mine.
Q Does the administration have a response to the drug companies' voluntary agreement to hold down aggregate drug prices announced last week?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, we're encouraged by that. I think one of the interesting things about this process is that all sides have been moving toward working with us on some kind of a solution. The health care crisis has reached a point where the drug manufacturers, the AMA, the health providers, doctors and consumer advocates are all sort of working together because there has to be some kind of a solution to this problem.
Q Well, does it go far enough? Do you, A, trust them to do it voluntarily and, B, does it concern you that they could raise prices on individual drugs while holding them down on others to meet the targets?
MS. MYERS: I mean, obviously, the details will be something that we'll look at in this process. I think the overriding impression is that we're encouraged by their willingness to make voluntary concessions in this process and we'll work with them. No final decisions have been made.
Q Dee Dee, do you have anything on this report that North Korea is closing all of its borders to foreigners, including diplomats?
MS. MYERS: No, it's the first I've heard of that. Is that from something this morning?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to look into it.
Q There are reports that Tass is reporting that North Korea -- in the aftermath of this IAEA dispute over inspection of nuclear facilities.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q How serious is that decision by North Korea not to allow inspections?
MS. MYERS: Oh, it's quite serious, and obviously, the administration is very unhappy with that decision by North Korea, and we'll work toward getting them to agree to nuclear inspections again.
Q Dee Dee, given the situation in Russia -- the precarious political situation, isn't the whole idea of a Bush -- not Bush -- a Clinton-Yeltsin summit in doubt at this point? I mean, how can Yeltsin travel here for a summit and leave the country, given what's going on there?
MS. MYERS: No, we're moving forward with plans. He's still President. We're still supporting him and the democratic reforms that are taking place in Russia, and we hope to have a good summit on April 4th and 5th.
Q Has there been any signal from them at all that they're --
MS. MYERS: -- 3rd and 4th. I'm sorry?
Q Has there been any signal from them at all indicating any doubt about him coming to Vancouver?
MS. MYERS: No, and we're moving forward with our plans for a summit.
Q What are the details of the meeting tomorrow with Aristide? What does the President hope to accomplish?
MS. MYERS: We'll actually have two briefings this afternoon. One at 3:00 p.m. will be a follow-up briefing on Israel, and then at 4:30 here in the briefing room we'll have a briefing on Haiti with State and NSC officials. Obviously, the President continues to support return to democracy and the eventual return of President Aristide in Haiti, and they'll discuss that among other things. I mean, predominantly, we'll focus on how to move forward with the restoration of democracy in Haiti.
Q What is the 3:00 p.m. briefing?
MS. MYERS: The 3:00 p.m. briefing will be a follow-up on the briefing with Rabin.
Q Is Stephanopoulos briefing -- still briefing, too?
MS. MYERS: Yes, actually George will brief at 12:45 p.m., and then as soon as he's done we'll do the Israel briefing.
Q That's before the news conference?
MS. MYERS: After. George is briefing at 2:45 p.m. --
Q At 12:45 p.m.
MS. MYERS: Oh, I'm sorry -- 12:45 p.m. Sorry. Just so many briefings. I can't keep up with the briefing schedule. George will brief at 12:45 p.m., the Israel briefing will be at 3:00 p.m., and the Haiti briefing will be at 4:30 p.m.
Q There's still a press conference, isn't there?
MS. MYERS: At 2:00 p.m. -- 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Q Who's gives the follow-up briefing?
MS. MYERS: It will be a background briefing by senior State and NSC officials.
Q So is Israel?
MS. MYERS: Two, one from each --
Q What else is on the schedule for tomorrow besides Aristide?
MS. MYERS: I don't have all the details of tomorrow's schedule. That's the main thing right now.
Q At what time is the meeting tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: He's also meeting with bipartisan congressional leaders here in the morning.
Q What time is the meeting with Aristide tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: I have to get back to you. I don't have the schedule for tomorrow.
Q Bipartisan leaders?
MS. MYERS: Bipartisan leaders tomorrow.
Q In the morning, early in the morning?
MS. MYERS: Nine or ten, I think.
Q Any travel times this week?
MS. MYERS: Pardon me?
Q Economic --
MS. MYERS: I'm sure that will be the primary topic but other things are likely to come up.
Q It's bipartisan?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it's the weekly meeting. Democrats -- every week he meets with either the Democratic leadership or the bipartisan leadership -- every Tuesday.
Q Do have any other events scheduled for this week?
MS. MYERS: Wednesday is the Irish Prime Minister and Friday is probably a travel day. Thursday I'm not sure about yet.
Q Is that a day trip or an overnight?
MS. MYERS: A day trip.
Q Thank you.
END9:43 A.M. EST