THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS The Briefing Room
9:49 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: The President's schedule: At noon, he will have lunch with Vice President Gore. We'll probably do a photo op. Pretty exciting. The Senate will likely have voted on the budget package by then. They have a self-imposed noon deadline today.
Q It's going to be a late lunch --
MS. MYERS: Yes, exactly. If not at noon, sometime -- we'll do some kind of a photo today during the day. He has his Thursday photo ops from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is Greek Independence Day, I just want to remind everybody to be behave appropriately.
Q Is George not coming in, or what? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: That's right. George took the morning off. He's celebrating with David Leopoulis.
Q Did David really stay in the Lincoln bedroom last night?
MS. MYERS: He sure did. It's Greek Independence Day. And then this evening the President will host a dinner for members of Congress to discuss Russia. I don't have a list of the names but --
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly who's coming, but it is a list of -- it's a group of House members who are concerned about Russia. It could be bipartisan.
Q Is this the group that's going over there next week?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a list.
Q Do you know how large it is?
MS. MYERS: It's about a dozen, maybe 15.
Q What will he be doing? Will he be promoting his program, asking for support?
MS. MYERS: Talking about ways that we can help Russia and the transition to democracy and economic market reform.
Q Time again?
MS. MYERS: It's about 8:00 p.m.
Q Will there be a photo op for that?
MS. MYERS: No. It's closed.
Q Will that be in the Residence?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q And will he be trying to promote his economic aid package for Russia?
MS. MYERS: I think he wants to get their input on what they think would be useful and share perhaps some of the things that he talked with Foreign Minister Kozyrev about.
Q Is there any contingency plans? What happens on Friday, tomorrow, if he gets -- if Yeltsin gets impeached? What happens next, what do you do next?
MS. MYERS: We're keeping a close eye on developments there, but as we've said, we're not going to comment on the day-today developments.
Q Will the package go forward though, regardless of what happens tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: We're planning to go forward with the summit on the 3rd and 4th and with the announcement of additional -- some kind of package of cooperation at the summit. We're moving forward with those plans.
Q What's the morning line on the stimulus package emerging unscathed?
MS. MYERS: We're committed to it.
Q We know that.
MS. MYERS: We're going to push very hard to get the stimulus package through the Senate in its current form. The President's committed to it, we're working very hard with members of the Senate to see that that happens.
Q Would attachment of the Boren-Breaux amendment be declared a victory?
MS. MYERS: The President does not support the BorenBreaux amendment -- the Breaux-Boren amendment.
Q What is he doing today to work on the stimulus package -- calling members, senators -- excuse me, is he bringing them in?
MS. MYERS: There are no plans for any of them to come here. I think it's entirely possible that he'll call some members of the Senate as it becomes necessary. I don't know what -- I don't think anybody knows what the exact timeline is on a vote on the stimulus package. But the President's committed to it in its current form. He does not support the Kohl amendment, he does not support Breaux-Boren and he's going to work very hard to get it through as it's designed now.
Q George seems to be drawing a distinction the other day between how much he hated Kohl's amendment versus how much they hated the other one. There's no difference in your mind? They're equally, completely unacceptable?
MS. MYERS: We just have differences with Breaux and Boren on their amendment. The President does not believe it would work. He believes that in order for the stimulus package to be effective that we need to pass all the money now so that it's available for it to have its intended impact.
Q This just handed to me.
MS. MYERS: No news.
Q Dee Dee, on the interview last night the President said he'd like to consider some actions and give the Bosnians a means to at least defend themselves. Does that mean he'd like to lift the arms embargo or could you elaborate on that?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't have any specific announcements today. Obviously, we're watching developments there and at the peace talks closely. The parties are still in New York. We're hopeful that they'll come back to the negotiating table.
Q Doesn't it change things that Lord Owen said that the differences are probably irreconcilable and that military action may be needed?
MS. MYERS: Well, the President -- I mean, the parties are still in New York. We could take that as a somewhat encouraging sign. There have been breakdowns in the process before. We're hopeful that they will stay there and that we can encourage them to come back to the negotiating table. It's a difficult process.
Q Did Kozyrev persuade the White House to put off enforcement of the no-fly zone?
MS. MYERS: We're still working with other members of the Security Council to vote on the no-fly zone. We hope to do that as soon as possible. As you know, the administration continues to support that, and we think that enforcing the U.N. resolutions would be a positive development.
Q Will this administration allow the Serbs to take the town of Srebrenica?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that we have the opportunity to allow or not allow. We're continuing to --
Q This is the only country in the world that could stop it.
MS. MYERS: We're continuing to -- our position has not changed on Bosnia at this time. We're continuing to --
Q How about Sarajevo?
MS. MYERS: The position has not changed. We're continuing to enforce economic sanctions. We're continuing to deliver humanitarian effort. We're continuing to push for a diplomatic resolution to this and to add other measures, like enforcement of the no-fly zone, which we're continuing to work with other countries on the Security Council, on and we'll continue to progress on that.
Q Will Vice President Gore be going to the summit with Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that.
Q Why did the President, who had said during the campaign that he was against soft money and wants to oppose those loopholes, why is he willing to compromise now?
MS. MYERS: He's not willing to compromise. He's going to put forward a campaign finance reform plan that eliminates soft money. It'll be a real reform package. He'll continue to work -- the package will also provide ways for the party to promote its party building activities, but the President's plan at this point is to eliminate soft money.
Q But isn't party-building activities the loophole that has permitted soft money to proliferate?
MS. MYERS: The final details of the plan aren't worked out, we're working on it, but the bottom line is that soft money will be eliminated, that is his commitment.
Q What's his timetable?
MS. MYERS: Soon, meaning sometime in the next couple of weeks. He said the next few days but then he corrected himself and said soon.
Q How about --
MS. MYERS: I don't know. Again, the final details of the plan aren't worked out, but the President is committed to eliminating soft money.
Q Two things. One, you all said you would decide people's suitability for position -- had problems with Social Security taxes on case-by-case basis for whatever job. Have you all decided that Charles Ruff cannot have a number two job at Justice because of Social Security problems?
MS. MYERS: We haven't made any final decisions about the other jobs at Justice yet. We're working on that and we'll have some announcements perhaps this week but soon.
Q Is he still a contender for the number two job --
MS. MYERS: Yes, no final decisions have been made.
Q Is the Post story wrong?
Q Thank you.
MS. MYERS: The Post story is right where it quotes Ricki Seidman saying no final decisions have been made.
Q Is it wrong in the other aspects?
MS. MYERS: All I can say at this point is that we're continuing to work on it. We'll have announcements of sub-Cabinet positions and others at Justice soon, perhaps this week.
Q So you're not denying that the Post story is correct?
MS. MYERS: I'm saying that no final decisions have been made so that's where we stand.
Q Can you enlighten me on another appointment? Can you enlighten me on Tim Wirth and what the status is with him at this point?
MS. MYERS: It's moving through. I'm not exactly sure what the status is.
Q Well, it's kind of slowed down, hasn't it?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back -- let me take that question. I'm not sure exactly where it is today.
Q Dee Dee, on the second question. A member of the White House staff, Bob Hattoy, was quoted -- openly criticizing the President, or policy. What's the administration policy on members of the White House staff publicly criticizing the President?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think if you look at Bob Hattoy's comments, I think that they've been somewhat misconstrued. And if you talk to Bob, his position is the same as the rest of the administration's, which is that there's a process which is in place; it's moving forward, that the President will receive a report from Secretary Aspin on July 15th; and that we need to work through the process that the President has established. I think it's important to point out that the President has simply said that he will take -- that he will look at all the recommendations provided to him through the process that he established. And I think that that is the administration's position and all the people who work here.
Q But whether Bob was misquoted or not, is it --
MS. MYERS: I don't think he was misquoted, I think is was mischaracterized.
Q Is it the administration policy that it's all right for members of the White House staff to criticize actions by the President or administration policy?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that we have an overt policy about that. I think there is certainly room for dissent within this administration. However, I think there is broad consensus on this and other issues.
Q And nothing -- you didn't say anything in the way he was quoted as suggesting he was criticizing the administration?
MS. MYERS: I think his comments were somewhat mischaracterized in that story.
Q How do you mean, Dee Dee? What do you mean by mischaracterized?
MS. MYERS: If you look -- I mean, I don't have the story in front of me, but if you look at specifically what he said, I think he was talking about the issue in a broader context and characterizing some of the opposition that exists among interest groups as opposed to specifically what the President has said. There is nothing in there where he says specifically that the President -- where he makes reference to the President and is critical of what the President has done.
Q In reference to the stimulus package, if it passes as expected today, are you going to have it rushed through, to sign it tomorrow as you did with the family leave --
MS. MYERS: I don't expect the stimulus will get through today. The budget resolution should get through today. And then I'm not sure where it goes from that -- the conference details have to be worked out. And I don't know what the timetable is on it.
Q Dee Dee, has the President called Yeltsin yet? Does he plan to call him before Friday?
MS. MYERS: He has not -- nothing's currently scheduled. He had a good meeting yesterday with Kozyrev, and we'll continue to work with the Russians on a number of levels. I wouldn't rule it out, it's just not scheduled.
Q Let me try this just one more time, but if tomorrow, because the possibility that Yeltsin is impeached, what happens then with the package?
MS. MYERS: A hypothetical. We'll have to wait and see what happens. I can't comment on something that hasn't happened.
Q It's got to be at least being considered. I mean, it's a possibility, a vote set, what happens next?
MS. MYERS: At this time, we're moving forward toward the summit on the 3rd and 4th, and we're making plans for that. We'll just continue to do that.
Q Any latest assessment on what chances you think Yeltsin has to survive?
MS. MYERS: No, I'm not going to handicap the internal Russian politics.
Q Back on Bosnia a moment. The President in the Rather interview last night talked about dealing with the allies and with NATO and getting the United Nations on board. Has he given our allies a veto on other foreign policy areas as well as Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I don't think he said that he'd given anyone a veto.
Q He said he couldn't move without them.
MS. MYERS: I think he's trying to build consensus. I think that that's his current position, and he'll continue to do that.
Q And that's going to be the case across the board?
MS. MYERS: That's the case with reference to Bosnia. And I think as the Germans announced yesterday, they're now participating in the airlifts and helping to enforce sanctions on the Danube. That's good news. And we'll continue to work with our allies to try to make some progress there.
Q Is there any progress on getting an ambassador into Moscow? Any -- with Pickering?
MS. MYERS: We're working on it.
Q There's --
MS. MYERS: Well, we're working on it. I mean, we hope to move that up to the Hill quickly and get it passed as quickly as possible.
Q Do you have a timetable yet?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q But you're proceeding with Pickering.
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q Can you confirm that the administration asked David Mixner not to go on television to talk about --
MS. MYERS: Untrue.
Q No one from the administration talked --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Is the administration quite upset with Congressman LaFalce for having Ross Perot over in front over in front of the Small Business Committee in the House yesterday?
MS. MYERS: Mr. Perot's testified in front of number of committees on a number of issues so far this year, and we expect that will probably continue.
Q Would the administration send somebody over after each one? I know the administration asked the congressmen yesterday to be able to respond to Mr. Perot and --
MS. MYERS: I think when it's appropriate or when we have a different opinion about something we may do that. I don't think that's a blanket policy, but he had -- obviously we have a different position than he does on NAFTA which was sort of the focus of his testimony yesterday.
Q Alan Greenspan yesterday said that the administration needs to go farther in budget cuts. Do -- agree with him?
MS. MYERS: In deficit reduction beyond 1996. I think that the President has said that this -- obviously we put together a budget -- a five-year budget -- and one of things, among others that he's working on is health care reform that will bring contained health care costs over the long-term which will bring additional savings and cuts over the long-term. And we're looking at that and a number of other things. But Chairman Greenspan has been supportive of the President's package so far but says we need to look at additional cuts beyond the four or five year budget package that's out there now.
MS. MYERS: I think the President is working hard to try to do things like control health care costs to achieve exactly that; to reduce spending over the long-term. When the President and Director Panetta and others unveiled the economic plan, one of the things that you saw was that the deficit goes back up after 1997 due to -- due in large measure to increased health care costs. That's why the President is working on health care reform now so diligently. We have to get health care costs under control.
Q Dee Dee, NPR is saying that the Health Care Task Force is considering a VAT tax of one to three percent. Is that an option under consideration?
MS. MYERS: That was reported somewhere yesterday. I said that that's not being considered. The President ruled that out sometime ago.
Q Did Joe Duffy make a mistake by resigning as President of American University?
MS. MYERS: I would never characterize Mr. Duffy's actions as a mistake.
Q Do you expect his nomination anytime soon?
MS. MYERS: We'll have an announcement on that soon.
Q Is Mrs. Clinton coming back to Washington this week?
MS. MYERS: Unclear.
Q Has her absence had an impact on the health care plans in terms of being able to meet the May 3rd deadline?
MS. MYERS: Obviously -- she's trying to keep on it somewhat, although she's fairly preoccupied. However, there are a number of other people who are working on it and the process is going forward. I don't think it's had an adverse impact --
Q The deadline stays?
MS. MYERS: Yes, the deadline stays at this point. Ira Magaziner is here and Carol Rasco and the working groups are continuing on their mission.
Q How's her father?
MS. MYERS: No change.
Q Is the President expected to participate at all in the task force meeting on Monday?
MS. MYERS: No, not at this point.
Q Will that meeting go forward whether or not Hillary is back from Little Rock?
MS. MYERS: I would expect so but I'll get back to you on that if it changes.
Q Are the names being released today? Is that --
MS. MYERS: Sometime this week. Most of them have been published in one form or another. Some of the reports have been wrong. Others have been fairly close and I think that in order to avoid further mischaracterizations of who might be on the working groups in the task force, we'll put out -- I think we're going to put out a list this week.
Q Can you respond to concerns by interest groups who are, quote, insulted or offended by being given three-minute time limits for their presentations.
MS. MYERS: A number of groups, as you know, have already had a chance to present their case to the task force or to the working groups, I should say, in one form or another. Many of them have. Obviously, there's a number of groups who want to make a presentation. We want to hear from as many diverse interests as we can. The hearing is going from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., and we think that that will give us ample opportunity to hear from a broad group of different interests so --
Q What can you say in three minutes?
MS. MYERS: I think you can say a lot in three minutes and particularly if you have -- I never do but -- (laughter) -- some people have found a way to do that. I think that over the course of the day, that there will be a tremendous amount of input.
Q On that Health Care Task Force list, since there's only two days left in the week, would you expect today or tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: I don't know -- today or tomorrow. I haven't talked to Bob about it this morning.
Q Do you have any idea what his plans for weekend are? Might he go back to Little Rock for the weekend?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's unclear. We'll have to wait and see. At this point, his plans are to give the radio address at 10:00 a.m. and go to the Gridiron Dinner on Saturday night. And he has no public schedule for Sunday.
Q Dee Dee, as long as we're on health care -- you've encountered it before -- Senator Dole, yesterday before the AMA said that after meetings with Mrs. Clinton and various other members of the Health Care Task Force have said that the clear message they're getting is that the White House does not want any Republican input in the health care reform --. How would you respond to that?
MS. MYERS: That's just not true. I'm sure that among the hundreds of people who have presented their case to the working groups, there have been countless Republicans; and we'll work with Republicans on the Hill and other places once the package is put together. When the package gets introduced that's the beginning, and then it will be a tremendous amount of debate on the Hill and in committee as it works its way through. I think there will be ample opportunity for input, as there is now.
There's a number of people, a number of congressional staff members that are working on this plan. There's a tremendous amount of input. There's literally hundreds of people who are working on it.
Q Staff members for Republican members?
MS. MYERS: I don't know, I'll have to double-check that.
Q Do you anticipate when you release the names, that you'll just release the names, or will you have descriptions of who people are?
MS. MYERS: I don't think there will be long descriptions of who people are. I think we'll release the names.
MS. MYERS: Probably.
Q Home phone numbers?
Q Addresses and home phone numbers?
MS. MYERS: Yes, home phone numbers, Social Security number and date of birth. (Laughter.)
Q Tax returns.
MS. MYERS: And tax returns. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:08 A.M. EST