THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:50 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Today he's, as you know, currently meeting with bipartisan leaders. At 11:45 a.m. he'll meet with a group of western senators. I don't have the complete list. At 3:30 p.m. he's meeting in the Oval Office --
Q Can you tell us what they're meeting about?
MS. MYERS: Just a variety of issues of interest to the senators from the west.
Q How about this morning's meeting right now?
MS. MYERS: It's part of the regular meeting. I'm sure they'll discuss a number of things, from the economic plan to perhaps other things. But it's -- every Tuesday he meets either with bipartisan leaders or Democratic leaders.
At 3:30 p.m. he's meeting with Coretta Scott King. At 4:00 p.m. he's meeting with President Aristide. At 4:45 p.m. at the end of that meeting, there will be a photo op. Basically, I think both Presidents will have something brief to say. It will be a pooled event only. After the meeting, someone will come down to do a readout. Probably somebody from the National Security Council.
And at 6:45 p.m., the President will attend the AmericaIreland Fund reception at the Capital Hilton.
Q What happened to the Hispanic --
MS. MYERS: It was postponed.
Q And is the 11:45 a.m. and the 3:30 p.m. -- any coverage of those?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q NSC briefing at 6:00 p.m.?
MS. MYERS: More like 5:15 p.m. As soon as the op is over with President Aristide, about 15 minutes or so after that, someone will come down here and give you all a readout of what happened.
Q Why is he meeting with Coretta Scott King?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what's on the agenda. She's in town.
Q His request or hers?
MS. MYERS: Hers.
Q Any states filing new requests for snow aid?
MS. MYERS: As you know, or may not know, Maine and Georgia have been granted emergency snow removal requests. Tennessee and North Carolina have applied for major disaster declarations. Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Kentucky have requested emergency aid, emergency declaration. We're expecting more requests today from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, among other things.
Q And these are all routinely being granted?
MS. MYERS: Well, they're being reviewed, but all of them so far have been granted.
Q Maine and Georgia -- is that major --
MS. MYERS: Emergency.
Q Dee Dee, there are conflicting reports today from Japan about the possibility of an emergency meeting of the G-7 before the Tokyo one. As far as you're concerned, is it still a possibility, or is it ruled out?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, we're looking at some form of meeting of the G-7, but probably not at the head of state level before Tokyo.
Q What's the administration's position? Do you favor a meeting with the heads of state --
MS. MYERS: We're reviewing the various options in wake of the Hong Kong meeting and recent developments. Chancellor Kohl's attached some urgency to this. President Mitterrand has attached some urgency to this to doing something to move up discussions about G-7 support for Russia.
Q Would you prefer a meeting at the minister level?
MS. MYERS: We're reviewing our options right now, but we expect there will be something before G-7.
Q Are you suggesting that as of right now it probably won't be head of state level?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's a lot of discussion about that right now -- about at the head of state level.
Q If you do something, it would likely be at the finance ministers and foreign ministers level?
MS. MYERS: Again, we're reviewing our options, but that's certainly something that's been proposed.
Q Any comment this morning on the remarks in Korea that suggest that they have developed a missile that can hit Japan, and that they have the plutonium they need to make a bomb?
MS. MYERS: We're aware of those reports. We're obviously monitoring the situation carefully and are very disturbed, as the President has indicated, about North Korea's withdrawal from the nonproliferation treaty.
Q Is it acceptable to the United States for North Korea to have nuclear weapons?
MS. MYERS: I think we are hopeful that they would continue to abide by the terms of the nonproliferation treaty, and we'll do everything we can to get them to agree to reenter the terms of that treaty. Obviously, we support the nonproliferation treaty.
Q Can we expect comments of substance at this Irish gathering tonight, or is this just sort of a social gathering?
MS. MYERS: No, I think it's a social gathering.
Q It is open, though?
MS. MYERS: It's open press, correct. And it's a reception. He's going to only be there from 6:45 p.m. until about 7:30 p.m. -- the reception portion of the evening.
Q He's not going to be sitting around the piano and singing old Irish pub songs? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: You never know. You never know, but it's not currently on the schedule.
Q The President indicated that he might have some sort of comment after the IAEA board of directors meeting, I guess it's on Wednesday. What form will that comment take?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to wait and see what happens.
Q The base closing hearing on the Hill was abruptly canceled. Do you know why that happened?
Q That was not base closing, that was the defense budget.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q There are some stories on the Hill, unverified, but that there's disagreement between Aspin and Powell over the budget and that's why it was cancelled. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. MYERS: No. We have to check with --
Q Do you know why --
MS. MYERS: No, I don't. I don't. You have to check with DOD.
Q What can we expect from the meeting with Aristide? What's likely to come out of it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President is going to reaffirm his commitment to democracy in Haiti, to moving forward with the U.N. and the OAS and others to reinstate President Aristide.
Q I thought Aristide wants the President to commit himself to a date for his return to power. Is it something realistic or is it ruled out?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, we're going to continue to work with Aristide, with the U.N. and the OAS to restore democracy as quickly as possible. We're doing what we can now. We're gratified by the fact that there are monitors in Haiti now. Obviously, there are a lot of problems and we're moving through those, but we're committed to the restoration of democracy as soon as we can possibly achieve it.
Q He will also ask that the embargo, blockade of Haiti be strengthened. Is the President planning to do that?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have to wait until after the meeting to see what President Aristide asks for.
Q Can you tell us what the status is of putting together an aid package for Russia as far as the United States is concerned? And what type of reception do you expect to receive and are receiving from the Hill as far as more enthusiasm than a year ago? And are you near finalizing a package, a proposed package for Russia?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, we're working through those details now as we walk up to the summit, consulting with members of Congress about the best way to achieve the continued reform in Russia. I mean, I can't speak to the details at this point. I think that there's broad support for Yeltsin in Congress. Obviously, the specific numbers and details of the package will have to be worked out.
Q What's going to be on the agenda when the talks with Mr. Delors when he comes?
MS. MYERS: What's on the agenda when he talks with Jacques Delors? I think it's just a series of EC-U.S. issues.
Q When was the meeting scheduled?
MS. MYERS: It's been on the calendar for a while -- I think that we thought had been released. It's been on probably for -- I don't know exactly when it was scheduled, but it's been on the calendar for some time.
Q So it hasn't been since what Mr. Kantor said on Friday about possible sanctions with the European Community?
MS. MYERS: No. No, it's been on -- his trip here has been scheduled for some time.
Q Senator Dole says he would support giving Hillary Clinton a one-time exemption from the Robert Kennedy law allowing her to have an official government Cabinet-level position if only President Clinton will ask. Is the President going to ask?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have to take a look at that. I haven't heard that from Senator Dole. It's very thoughtful of him. We will review it.
Q There was a report yesterday that Senator Byrd has objected to this idea of trying to attach health care legislation to the reconciliation legislation. What's the administration's view on that. Does the administration support putting health care on top of the deficit reduction legislation, particularly if you want to get it done by summer, as I understand it?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, we're working with Congress in looking at a number of different strategies pertaining to health care and the passage of a bill. But the President continues to be committed to health care reform this year. Obviously, we don't have a lot of control over the Senate rules, which are quite specific about what can and can't be considered during the reconciliation process. But we will continue to work with the congressional leaders to find a strategy to get health care reform this year.
Q Has the President met any time recently with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan?
MS. MYERS: He talks to him occasionally. As you know, Secretary Bentsen meets with him weekly. I don't know when the last time the President met with him or spoke with him was, but it's a fairly regular basis.
Q Do you know how many times they have met?
MS. MYERS: I think personally only twice, once during the transition and once here.
Q Would you say that the President is satisfied with the way the Fed is handling the monetary policy now? Is it seen at the White House as being supportive of the President's economic program?
MS. MYERS: Well, as you know the Fed continues to be an independent agency but the President -- Chairman Greenspan has said a number of things about the plan. He supports the general sort of outline of the plan, the broad goals, the commitment deficit reduction, spending cuts, basically supports the idea of a stimulus package to create jobs in the short-term. I think we're quite satisfied with the Fed's performance.
Q Dee Dee, how do you feel about the move on the part of some conservative and moderate Democrats to cut the stimulus package or to make sure there are additional cuts beyond the stimulus package to make up for a full stimulus package?
MS. MYERS: The President maintains his commitment to a stimulus package and to getting that through Congress and will continue to work with Congress to get it passed as soon as possible. And there has been a number of proposals throughout this process about it, but the President remains committed to passing it in as true a form as possible.
Q There have been a number of stories that the White House is sending a message to those Democrats who want to oppose the President and certain aspects of the economic policy that the White House will get tough and be sort of revengeful in their response -- leaving that message. Is that the message you want these conservatives Democrats to have?
MS. MYERS: I don't think revenge is the right word. I think we're going to continue to work with Congress to try to pass the President's package and, obviously, we've had good success so far. I think Congress is committed to working with the President to achieve the broad outlines of his goals. And I think we expect resolutions to come out of the budget committees and the -- I think they're going to take it up this week and we're hopeful.
Q Is it fair to say that the administration of the White House has so far put out a carrot and stick approach to Democrats who may have reservations about various aspects of the plan?
MS. MYERS: I think we're continuing to work with Democrats and others who have reservations about aspects of the plan. As you know, the President is working with Congress to accept a large range of additional cuts, which he said he would do to try to make sure that the members' of Congress concerns are addressed in the process. I think we'll continue to do that. We'll continue to work with Congress. The President's committed to getting his package passed, and we'll work to do what it takes to make that happen.
Q Getting back to the reconciliation-health care question. I want to reverse it. Has the President decided it is not a good idea to combine these two approaches and has he told the members of Congress that?
MS. MYERS: Again, we don't control the Senate rules, and we have to work --
Q But you do advise. Have you made the decision that that would not be a good approach and told them so?
MS. MYERS: We're going to continue to work with members of Congress to find the best strategy for getting health care passed this year. Obviously, there are complications. The Byrd rule makes it very difficult to consider certain nongermane amendments in the reconciliation process. Those are rules that we have to work within, so we're going to look at a number of ways to get the health care reform package passed and work with Congress, take their advice and counsel on what the best way to push it through is. But the President remains committed to getting it done this year.
Q Would you say that it's a possibility to combine them still, or parts of them?
MS. MYERS: As you know, it's something that Senator Mitchell has talked about. So, obviously it's a possibility. I think it has some problems. It's not easy. There are some complicated Senate rules to consider. We'll continue to work with members of the Senate to determined the best possible strategy.
Q Is there some concern that if you try to combine health care with deficit reduction that you're going to delay passage of deficit reduction until much later than what you were talking about.
MS. MYERS: Again, I think a lot of those concerns have been expressed by members of Congress, by people on the Hill. And we're working with them again to find the best possible strategy to work with folks like Senator Mitchell, the leadership, following their lead, taking their advice on this and trying to find the best possible strategy.
Q The earliest that the health care plan would be unveiled would be May 1st, and it's probably going to be at least a few days after that. The hope has been to vote on reconciliation by some time in August. Does the President believe that as a policy matter it would be wise to try to adopt a schedule in which an entire health care reform package would go through the congressional hearing process debate and vote in 10 or 11 weeks? That seems to be awfully quick for such a major --
MS. MYERS: Again, the President's committed to health care reform this year. We're going to work with Congress to find the best possible strategy. We're considering a number of things right now. We haven't committed to any particular strategy at this point. We'll continue to look at a number of different options. Obviously, health care reform is complicated. It's going to require some time, some hearing in committee. I'm sure there will be vigorous debate about it. But again, we will continue to work with Congress to find the best possible way to work that through.
Q Do you care to comment on a story in The New York Times today that the White House is considering in its health plan to include the mental health costs?
MS. MYERS: Again, as you know, the process is one that is looking at a wide, wide variety of options. There's a number of working groups looking at every aspect of the health care issue. There are a number of memos being written about what the various options are, and there have been no commitments or decisions made on a broad range of issues. When we have decisions, we'll let you know.
Q The memo addresses a wide range of sin taxes, apparently. Is liquor still on the table as a subject of sin tax?
MS. MYERS: I can't comment on what's specifically being considered.
Q What's the latest on the Friday travel? Where are we going?
MS. MYERS: It looks like we'll be going for a day somewhere to the south. We're still working on the details. We'll probably have more specifics by tomorrow.
Q Is there any weekend travel?
MS. MYERS: Not scheduled.
Q Storm damage?
MS. MYERS: It may have a storm component. We're looking at it. Part of it probably won't, part of it might. Pardon me?
Q Is weekend travel -- you said is not scheduled?
MS. MYERS: There are no weekend events planned.
Q But is there talk of a weekend vacation trip down to Florida?
MS. MYERS: We'll let you know as soon as we have details on that. I'm trying to only provide the best information possible. So I don't want to comment on rumors and speculation.
Q Has he ever been bone fishing?
MS. MYERS: Ever been what?
Q Bone fishing. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Bone fishing. I don't -- unless they do it in Arkansas.
Q Are you leaving open the possibility that he may travel to the south on Friday and then just stay someplace in the south over the weekend and come back Sunday night or Monday?
MS. MYERS: I would not totally steer you away from that at this point.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:13 A.M. EST/