THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:16 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: We have no firm plans on the President's schedule for today. I think it is likely he will return to Washington this afternoon, and the rest of his schedule obviously will depend on Mr. Rodham's circumstances, which are, at this point, unchanged.
Q How about the abortion aid? Is it true the President going to lift the ban on the --
MS. MYERS: He said during the campaign that he would repeal the Hyde Amendment. We do not expect that our budget will contain that provision; it will not.
Q It will not contain --
MS. MYERS: It won't contain the Hyde Amendment.
Q So, in effect, he is asking that Congress repeal the Hyde Amendment?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q Is this seen as part of the health care package in that the benefits program couldn't allow abortion for some incomes but not others, or is this a separate -- how do you see this?
MS. MYERS: This is separate. This is part of the appropriations package. The Hyde Amendment, as you know, is normally included in the appropriations bills, and normally there's a fight over whether or not to remove it. This year, we won't include it and we'll work with Congress to make sure that we're in accordance with state and federal law.
Q What's the reasoning? What's the President's reasoning?
MS. MYERS: The President doesn't believe that there ought to be -- that we ought to ban funding for abortions in all cases, federal funding of abortions in all cases, which the Hyde Amendment does, which he said throughout the campaign.
Q Dee Dee, I'm sorry, I just am not sure of the procedure. It's totally your discretion to not include it?
MS. MYERS: This will have to be something that will be taken up with Congress. But our proposal, when we submit our budget to Congress, it will not include the Hyde Amendment. For the last 16 years, the appropriations bills have included it, is my understanding.
Q Well, that's basically the length of the amendment, isn't it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the length of the amendment is, but it's been in there since '76. It will not be there this year, and we'll work with Congress to make sure that we comply with state and federal law regarding that, but it will not be in this year's appropriations -- in our budget.
Q Dee Dee, what are prospects for congressional approval of this? This is something they have to -- I mean, they haven't gone along with this for a long time.
MS. MYERS: Right. I think it's unclear; I don't think anybody knows.
Q You haven't talked to -- the Legislative Affairs Office hadn't talked to the --
MS. MYERS: No, they have. Obviously, there's a large, new freshman class and a number of other changes, and we'll just have to work with Congress to see what happens.
Q Doesn't the amendment need to be repealed? Is it only year by year?
MS. MYERS: It will not be included in the budget this year, and we'll work with Congress -- obviously, it's a required congressional action.
Q Well, what does that really mean, practically? Does that mean --
MS. MYERS: It means, practically it will be taken up in Congress. But, as opposed to debating whether or not to eliminate it once it's there, the debate will be about whether to include it, and we're going to press for that and work with Congress to make sure --
Q Is it not the law now?
MS. MYERS: It's part of the appropriations bill every year. It's included every year, and we're going to try --
Q So it has to be passed every year?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q I thought the fight was about repealing it.
MS. MYERS: Well, it is because it's included every year.
Q Not including it -- does it become automatically repealed, or what's --
MS. MYERS: The proposal will be, by not including it, the fight will be about whether or not to include it. Normally, it's been the other way; it's always been included. But it's my understanding it's a year-by-year thing. It's been included for the last 16 years, there's been a floor fight about whether or not to eliminate it. Obviously, Congress has voted to include it; this year, it will not be included in our budget and we'll work with Congress to try to preserve that.
Q That'll be a Fiscal '94 appropriations bill?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q Dee Dee, why is that? Why is the Hyde Amendment so unusual in that regard, that it's apparently not self-sustaining?
MS. MYERS: You know, it may be. It may -- we're not including it this year and there and we'll work with Congress to try to maintain that. I'm not sure of all the specific --
Q But most amendments, you know, once they're passed by Congress, kind of exist. This one apparently has been passed by Congress on a yearly basis. Why is it that way? Is it --
MS. MYERS: I don't know the specific action on it. And I can look into that and get back to you. But I'll have to get back to you.
Q Don't you risk the political danger of those who favor the Hyde Amendment trying to attach it to each and every measure that is going to be debated by Congress as it takes up the appropriations?
MS. MYERS: I think you can make that argument about any controversial measure that doesn't -- that is no excuse for not pursuing overturning the Hyde Amendment, which is something the President said he would do during the campaign and something he is committed to.
Q So it's to this administration that it's worth slowing down the whole process to philosophically handle it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that you can say for sure whether that will happen. But, obviously, he going to press to overturn -- to reverse the Hyde Amendment and work with Congress to make that happen.
Q Is the President thinking of price controls in moving toward a health plan?
MS. MYERS: As you know, we're working on the --
Q Forty-one or 42?
Q It's 41.
MS. MYERS: This, I believe, is 41. We're working on the details of the health plan and May 3rd we'll have something to announce.
Q Is that a --
Q Was Gore on the right track?
MS. MYERS: I can't comment on the specific details of it one way or another.
Q Is The Wall Street Journal on the right track on the Supreme Court nomination that Mario Cuomo is the frontrunner?
MS. MYERS: Once the President has a decision on the Supreme Court, we'll let you know.
Q You've said that the President's schedule --
MS. MYERS: That's 42.
Q That the President's schedule over the next few days is open based on what happens to Mr. Rodham. What are the options? Not attending the forest conference? Not attending the summit, or --
MS. MYERS: Well, hopefully not. I mean, we'll try to, again, it will depend on his father-in-law's situation. But at this point there is a Cabinet meeting scheduled for tomorrow. He's giving a speech in Annapolis to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on Thursday.
Q What time is it?
MS. MYERS: It's noontime, I believe.
Q Have a better fix on the topic?
MS. MYERS: We're still working on it, but I think you can expect something about Russia. I wouldn't look for the details of the Russian aid package, necessarily, but I think he will talk about Russia.
Q It is possible he would not go to Portland?
MS. MYERS: I the worst-case scenario, I can't say unequivocally that he will go, but we're planning to go forward and, hopefully, that will be possible. But again, there is the situation of his father-in-law.
Q There's no possibility, though, he would miss Vancouver?
MS. MYERS: I think it's very unlikely. I can't imagine that that would happen.
Q Are there any limitations on his preparations that he can do while in Little Rock for the summit? Does he have to come back here at a certain point?
MS. MYERS: I think he -- does he have to? No.
Q Shut up.
MS. MYERS: Holy cow, gang. (Laughter.) Let's keep it down up here. I think he's doing some things to prepare now. He's had a number of briefing books and he's spoken by phone to his national security advisors and others. I think he'll continue to do that, but he is coming back today. And, among other things, I think he'll spend some time working on Russia.
Q Doesn't he tentatively have a dinner on his schedule tonight -- a drop-by?
MS. MYERS: There's a reception before the dinner, I believe. If he's back, I think he's going to try to do that.
Q Where is that?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a schedule in front of me. It's --
Q Washington Hilton.
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think that's right.
Q Dee Dee, on Thursday, is the speech -- is it purely an address, or is there questions and answers, too?
MS. MYERS: Last year there were questions and answers. So I haven't checked on the specific format, but I wouldn't rule that out.
Q What time is that speech?
MS. MYERS: Is it noon? I think, Jeremy, is that right?
MR. GAINES: I don't know.
Q Anything else on the schedule once he comes back today besides this reception?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q You seem a lot more confident today that he will come back, even if circumstances haven't changed.
MS. MYERS: I think he is coming -- at this point, he's planning to come back today, unless something happens this morning.
Q Not quite like yesterday.
MS. MYERS: Yes. Yesterday it was unclear; today, right now he's planning to come back. I think he'll probably leave Little Rock by around noon central, which will put him back here probably around 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. Eastern. I think he'll spend most of the afternoon in the office in a variety of meetings, and then attend this reception this evening; and then hopefully proceed with the schedule tomorrow, but we'll see how is father-in-law's condition evolves.
Q What is that reception?
MS. MYERS: What is it, Jeremy? I don't have a schedule in front of me.
Q Is it somewhere where he would have comments?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think he'll make brief comments. But I think it's informal; it's not meant to be making news or any policy -- Jeremy's going to get the schedule.
Q Is the United States going to draw down 40 percent of its troops in Europe?
MS. MYERS: I think that the goal is by 1996 to reduce the troop force in Europe to 100,000. That's something that we've talked about over the course of the last several months. I mean, that's been discussed with our allies in Europe and that they're comfortable with.
Q didn't give a schedule for that. Is that because it hasn't been determined yet?
MS. MYERS: I think 1996 is the --
Q That's the end date --
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q but in terms of when it starts?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I'd have to refer you to the Pentagon for the specific details about exactly when those reductions are going to be made. But the plan is to reduce the force level in Europe to 100,000 by 1996.
Q How many do we have there now?
MS. MYERS: About 180,000, I believe, which is down from a high in about 1988.
Tonight's schedule is the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. It's a reception at the Washington Hilton and he'll make brief remarks.
Q What time?
MS. MYERS: 6:15 p.m.
Q And back?
MS. MYERS: 7:15 p.m.
MS. MYERS: It is pool.
Q Dee Dee, does the administration believe the shortterm stimulus package is in trouble in the Senate?
MS. MYERS: Actually we resolved that pretty well yesterday, I think. As you know, Senator Breaux, Boren and Bryan dropped their amendment. We're optimistic that that will pass in its original form. So we're optimistic on that today.
Q But you still have a problem with Republicans --the Brown Amendment and the possibility of a filibuster, don't you?
MS. MYERS: Sure, there are still some obstacles, but we're optimistic that that will get resolved and that the stimulus package will pass the Senate.
Q Let me ask you this. Since the President said the other day that he will not permit wasteful spending and that you've maintained that, among other things, fish atlases and others are not in the bill, why not support the Brown Amendment since it doesn't say take the money out, it just says you can't spend it on these items.
MS. MYERS: I think that the President has said that he'll make sure that there is no -- oh, Thursday's speech is 1:00 p.m., not 12:00 noon -- that he'll make sure there is no wasteful spending; it's unnecessary. We'll continue to work with the Senate to try to get the stimulus package passed. We think that that will happen; we're optimistic. And we'll see what happens today.
Q Travel on Thursday -- is that still the plan to go to Portland?
MS. MYERS: I think that's likely. We haven't worked out the final details but I think that's likely that we would leave Thursday afternoon for Portland, spend the night in Portland on Thursday.
Q From Annapolis or from --
MS. MYERS: Unclear. I think we'd come back to Andrews. It's unclear what the timing would be whether the President would come back to the White House and leave later or whether we would go directly from there. I think it's our goal that people would be able to cover the speech and file before we left for the West Coast.
Q File from --
MS. MYERS: Yes, I don't know how it will affect broadcast people.
Q What's the Cabinet meeting on tomorrow?
Q Badly, it sounds. Sounds pretty grim so far.
MS. MYERS: I think it's on a number of things including the economic package and I'm sure they'll discuss the Russian summit and other plans.
Q If the President is not going to unveil the details of the package Thursday, what is the focus, then, of the speech with regard to Russia as why we need to aid -- is that --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think -- that will certainly be included in the topics. We're still working on the specific speech, but certainly there is a case to be made for why it is the U.S. interest to help the Russians in their transition to democracy and why the President continues to support the reformers and President Yeltsin as the leader of the reform movement.
Q And that would be the focus?
MS. MYERS: Pardon me?
Q That would be a focus of this --
MS. MYERS: I think that's the direction that it's moving in. It may -- he may touch on other topics, but I think you can expect that he'll talk about Russia.
Q In that speech, he will not unveil his package?
MS. MYERS: He's still working on it. I don't think you -- I just would caution you against looking for all the specific details on the aid package. I don't think that will come on Thursday.
Q When would the funds be released, before or after the 25th of April?
MS. MYERS: What, after the Russian vote?
Q Would that be a factor in releasing the --
MS. MYERS: Well, we'll have the details on the package at the summit. I think what we're looking toward is things that can help immediately, but again we'll have the details of the package on next weekend.
Q The President said in Little Rock yesterday that we give far less aid to Russia than we do to some smaller countries, presumably Israel and Egypt. Is it possible that he might ask Congress to shift some aid from Israel and Egypt to Russia?
MS. MYERS: No, he has said repeatedly that he is committed to the current levels of aid for both Israel and Egypt.
Q No circumstances under which he'd change it?
MS. MYERS: He's committed to the current levels of aid.
Q Does he think the American people have to be sold on aid to Russia?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that he feels that it is his obligation to continue to make the case so that they -- to continue - -
Q I mean, is he concerned that the case has not been made with the American people?
MS. MYERS: I think that he is going to continue to make it. I think he thinks it can be made better, that is it an ongoing process, that you can't ever expect that you make one speech or one statement and that its done. I think he believes that the American people need to be participants in the dialogue and that he'll continue to talk about it.
Q But, I mean, there is --
MS. MYERS: Pepperoni and cheese, please. (Laughter.)
Q Does he think that there is an atmosphere against aid in this country?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he indicated that it's difficult, yesterday. He said that foreign aid is not always popular in any country. But I think he's going to continue to press his case. I think he believes it is in the best interest of this country to help the Russians in their transition to democracy and he's going to continue to make that case. It's not easy, I don't think that he expects that it'll be easy.
Q Dee Dee, Clinton's predecessor last year unveiled a $24-billion aid package for Russia --
MS. MYERS: That was a multilateral package, I would remind you.
Q which included about $6 billion in U.S. aid, and very little of that money has been delivered. Will his plan build on that, incorporate parts of that, reuse some of the money?
MS. MYERS: Obviously that's a starting point. That was the government's proposal last year. We'll continue to build on that. As you pointed out, a lot of that money was never spent. But I don't want to talk too much about the details of the aid package before the decisions are made.
Q recycle? I mean, is this just going to be a recycled --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q -- version of last year's plan?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q When will the plan be revealed? When are you going to announce it?
MS. MYERS: The specific details of the plan I think won't be revealed until after the President has spoken to President Yeltsin.
Q will it be Saturday? Sunday?
MS. MYERS: Sunday.
Q I'm just checking -- he hasn't spoken to Yeltsin, has he?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Back to the --
MS. MYERS: The daily -- this is like the --
Q How about the AIDS czar? We haven't hit that yet.
MS. MYERS: Pickering has been sent up to the Hill. I'm so glad you asked.
Q Whoa, news breaks out.
Q When did that happen?
MS. MYERS: Either last night or this morning. It was approved last night and I don't know when it specifically went up.
Q Approved by who?
MS. MYERS: Well, it went from our staff secretary, John Podesta, to the Executive Secretary or whoever the person is on the Hill who takes --
Q Did he clear all his hurdles?
MS. MYERS: He's -- it's been sent up and we expect a confirmation hearing to be scheduled and we're optimistic that he will be confirmed.
Q Can you say what held it up?
Q he was cleared?
MS. MYERS: No, but it's gone forward now.
Q Is Pickering likely to go with the President to Vancouver?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I don't know if he'll go if he's not approved. I'll check.
Q Is Gore going to go?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that, either.
Q Is there a specific plan --
Q Did you get a green light from the Hill to send it up?
MS. MYERS: We're optimistic that it will be confirmed. As you know, the President --
Q Did you get an approval? I mean, did you check with the committee?
MS. MYERS: I don't know who was consulted. I know that there were some meetings on it here mostly between State and the White House, I believe. But I think everybody's optimistic that Ambassador Pickering will be approved in due speed.
Q Will the same standards be applied to Judge Sessions as were applied to Ambassador Pickering?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if the two situations are comparable. As you know, Attorney General Reno is reviewing Judge Sessions' case now, and at some point she'll make a recommendation to -- or a presentation to the President and he'll make a decision. I don't see how the two are connected.
Q Well, from what little we know, both were accused of abusing perquisites of office.
MS. MYERS: They're separate -- completely separate investigations. I think both will be evaluated judiciously and fairly and the President will make a decision on Judge Sessions when Attorney General Reno is prepared and puts the facts in front of him.
Q Back to the stimulus package for a second. Are you confident, have you received any assurances from the Hill that it will pass the Senate before Congress goes on recess?
MS. MYERS: We're hopeful that it will. And I think that they're making progress on it today. We'll see what happens. But we're hopeful that the stimulus package will pass. I don't expect it will come out of conference before recess necessarily, but we're hopeful that it will pass the full Senate.
Q Dee Dee, you said there should be a dialogue with the American people on the -- is there a plan for an event like that?
MS. MYERS: No, I wouldn't look for a town hall or anything, but I just mean that the President is going to continue to talk about it so that the American people understand why he believes it's important.
Q Also, is there a specific plan for some kind of a background briefing in this room before we go to Vancouver?
MS. MYERS: I think that what we're looking toward is, first of all, there will be a background briefing today -- before I forget -- at 3:00 p.m. Marla Romash will brief on the forest conference -- on what the schedule is, what the agenda is, what the issues are. Tomorrow at some point we'll do a briefing on the schedule for the Russia conference -- the summit. And then I believe Friday morning or sometime after we leave here, before we go to Vancouver, there will be a more detailed briefing on the Russia conference -- the summit.
Q In Portland?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q A quick question on --
MS. MYERS: That's a tentative schedule, but that's what we're looking toward.
Q So tomorrow morning and Friday --
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow -- sometime tomorrow on the details of the agenda, really, about what the different sessions are and who will be attending, things like that. And then Friday morning more specific details on exactly what's going to be discussed.
Q When are you going to be able to do that? In the midst of the timber summit you're going to have a background briefing?
MS. MYERS: Well, before the timber summit. I think the tentative schedule -- and again this is tentative -- is the timber summit would start some time like 10:00 a.m. So we would do something like 9:00 in the morning in Portland. Which is noon Eastern Time, I might point out for your --
Q Nobody will be able to do that -- I mean, none of the TV people will be able to do that.
Q Practically speaking, that doesn't sound practical.
Q It won't work.
MS. MYERS: Why not?
Q Because it's an hour -- because you've got an hour there before the thing starts. There's no way we can -- if there's any way to schedule that --
MS. MYERS: Well, I'm giving ball park times. I mean, we'll schedule it earlier if it needs to be earlier. I mean, we're not locked in here.
Q You don't sound like you're taking the timber summit particularly serious.
MS. MYERS: No, we are taking the timber summit seriously, but we're constrained by time. We're doing the best we can to provide you with the information that you need. This is not a --
Q Well, we've been asking for a background summit since the day you announced the summit about a month ago.
MS. MYERS: We can't provide you with details that we don't have. I mean, if you want accurate information, we will do our best to provide it. You need to work with us. If 9:00 a.m. doesn't work, let's talk about it and we'll find a time that does work. Maybe Thursday afternoon is better; but we're not going to have the details we need to give you the background before we go. And you don't have to go if it's -- if you don't want to. I mean, it's not mandatory. (Laughter.)
Q We definitely want to go. It's a question of --
MS. MYERS: I mean, we're trying to help here, guys.
Q Dee Dee, we all want to go.
MS. MYERS: Well then, let's work -- let's work it out. Let's not assume the worst before we even have a chance to --
Q We can talk about it later.
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q Dee Dee, do you have any reaction to Susan Sarandon's and Tim Robbins's protest at the Academy Awards last night over the Clinton administration's refusal to allow 250 HIV positive Haitians at Guantanamo Bay to come into the United States? That was a question.
MS. MYERS: No. I think Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are both fine actors. Thank you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.