THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
10:00 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: As you know, there will be a press conference in the East Room at 11:15 a.m., and then there will be a readout after the meeting about 1:30 p.m. in here with senior State Department and National Security staffers -- officials.
Q What time?
MS. MYERS: At 1:30 p.m., or shortly thereafter. Whenever the meeting ends with Mubarak and Clinton.
Q What about the abortion story in The Post? Is that on target?
MS. MYERS: Yes. When the budget is submitted on Thursday, it will not include language from the Hyde Amendment or other things, and we'll work with Congress to make sure that any actions we take are consistent with state and federal law.
Q This was specifically on the coverage for people under the federal employee health program?
MS. MYERS: Correct. But all the language -- that was language that was in the appropriations every year. That language will not be submitted this year. And we'll work with Congress, as we said last week.
Q In all the future abortion stories that we're going to see on anything else -- is it safe to assume that he's going to try to knock out antiabortion provisions in everything?
MS. MYERS: I think -- consistent with that, I think that's generally true, that we'll remove the restrictions from the language and then work with Congress to make sure that we're acting consistent with state and federal law.
Q Is there anywhere in the law, existing law, that he wants to preserve antiabortion language?
MS. MYERS: I don't want to make a blanket statement without knowing that there might be an exception, but I think generally where there has been very restrictive language that's been reauthorized every year and put in because there was no way to overrule a presidential veto, that that language will be removed and we'll work with Congress to try to figure out where we go from here.
Q On another subject, there's a story about 25,000 resumes -- job resumes being lost.
MS. MYERS: Yes, that's just not true. It's just made up out of whole cloth. There are no resumes lost. As you know, we've received literally tens of thousands of resumes from the time President Clinton was elected in November until now. We've inputted literally tens of thousands of resumes into the Resumex system. We're continuing to do that. None were lost. The system was down for a short period -- or actually, a period of a few weeks -- between -- during the transition period, but that problem was fixed and resumes are continuing to be inputted. None have been permanently lost. That's just not true.
Q So the ones -- there were some that were temporarily lost?
MS. MYERS: The system was down for a short period. I don't know that any have been lost. There is somewhat of a backlog, which is being made up for now. But the story that 25,000 resumes were lost is just completely untrue.
Q How long --
MS. MYERS: That the Resumex system was down? About three weeks -- before the Inaugural.
Q Back on the abortion question. The Speaker said this morning that the President would have a hard time getting that through Congress.
MS. MYERS: I think, as we stated last week, we don't know what the prospects are in Congress, but we're going to start with the position that the federal government ought not to issue a blanket mandate, that the states ought to have flexibility in this, which is a position President Clinton has long supported. And we'll work with Congress to see where we can go from here.
Q Dee Dee, what actions will the President be taking over the recess in the next two weeks to try to make the outcome of the stimulus package different than it has been? And has it -- considering proposing some way that would pay for it, rather than add to the deficit.
MS. MYERS: That would defeat the purpose of the stimulus package if you cut additional spending. However, we'll continue to work with Congress to try to get a jobs bill passed. I think the President just made the point that -- what he wants to do is create jobs and that this holdup is delaying the creation of thousands of jobs for Americans who need and want jobs. The American people overwhelmingly support measures to create more jobs to get this economy moving again. We've had a recovery without job growth. That continues to trouble the President. And we'll continue to push for a jobs creation bill when Congress resumes on April 19th.
Q Are you saying there is nothing in there that does not create jobs? That everything in that package creates jobs --
MS. MYERS: As we've said throughout this process, that the President's -- the package is a job creation package. It will create literally hundreds of thousands of jobs in the next two fiscal years. The President's committed to it. He thinks that the package is good. We'll continue to work with Congress to try to get it passed.
Q Is he willing to take a cut in the amount?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have to work with Congress to see what we can do when they return. I think the President will continue to press his case with the American people, continue to make the point that we need more jobs, that the federal government can play an important role in creating jobs and getting this economy moving again.
Q Is he willing to give at all or is it just not open for discussion?
MS. MYERS: Well, Senator Mitchell and Byrd and others are working with the Republicans in the Senate. I think, again, the President will continue to make his case that this is stalled in Congress, that what we don't need is a gridlock. What we need is jobs, and the American people support that. And the President will continue to push his case in the meantime.
Q Are you going to target specific senators in their districts while they're on recess?
MS. MYERS: I think, again, the President will continue to make his case. And specifically how we do that we're still working on.
Q That's the point -- where is he going to make his case? Is he going to do anything this week? Is he going to travel? Make speeches?
MS. MYERS: No, there are no travel plans this week, and we'll let you know as plans become firmed up.
Q He's not going to do an Easter vacation trip?
MS. MYERS: Unclear.
Q Is he going to do targeted TV or print interviews in people's districts? I mean, that's been part of the strategy all along. Are you going to crank that up even more?
MS. MYERS: We'll see where it goes from here. We'll let you know as plans become firm. Easter plans are partly unclear due to Mr. Rodham's condition.
Q Dee Dee, is it safe to say that he is insisting on the plan as it is now presented to the Senate, or is willing to modify the plan in these discussions?
MS. MYERS: I think there is clearly a debate going on in the Senate about the plan. The President's going to continue to make his case that we need a job creation measure, and the President's committed to a package that will create thousands of new jobs for Americans.
Q And is it this specific proposal he's insisting on?
MS. MYERS: He'd like to see the specific proposal passed, but, as you know, Congress is -- the Senate is currently debating that.
Q It sounds like you're advocating gridlock.
MS. MYERS: We're not advocating gridlock. We're advocating jobs. And certain members of the Senate have refused to allow the President's job package to come to a vote on the floor of the Senate. That's gridlock. They've refused to even allow it to come to a vote. The President is going to continue to press his case that we need this jobs creation measure to get the economy moving again and put people back to work.
Q But, Dee Dee, you all have clearly indicated you are willing to compromise in some ways. What areas are you willing to wiggle on?
MS. MYERS: Again, that's something that the Senate leadership is going to have to work out. The President continues to be committed to a jobs creation package. And when the Senate resumes on April 19th, we'll go from there. In the meantime, he's going to make his case.
Q Let me ask the converse of that. What are you not willing to give up?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll have to wait and see what happens when Congress resumes.
Q No line in the sand?
MS. MYERS: No line in the sand.
Q Dee Dee, back to abortion. Are there any situations where the President thinks tax dollars shouldn't be used to fund abortion?
MS. MYERS: I think what the President believes is that the federal government ought not to issue a strict mandate about how states can and cannot spend Medicaid dollars, for example, or what -- strict provisions against certain procedures in a health plan. Now, we'll have to go back to Congress and work out the details of that. But we're starting from the position that we're eliminating the restrictive language and we'll work with Congress to make sure that the final decisions are consistent with state and federal law.
Q So if states want to put in some sort of restrictions --
MS. MYERS: Many states already have those kinds of restrictions. And the President is proposing giving states more flexibility, not less.
Q Is there a decision yet or an assessment of whether or not there will be a delay past May 3rd for the health package due to the prolonged absence of Mrs. Clinton?
MS. MYERS: Clearly, there's been -- Mrs. Clinton's absence due to her father's illness has slowed the process some. I think Ira Magaziner said yesterday that the final legislation may not be ready until a little bit later in May. We'll have something early in May. It may not be the specifics of legislation.
Q You still expect to have something by Monday, May 3rd?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think we'll have -- I don't know exactly what form that will take, but I think we'll have something to say on May 3rd. But the specifics of the legislation likely won't be ready until later.
Q Middle of the month?
MS. MYERS: Something like that.
Q When then are you holding to May 3rd? Why not just say due to unforeseen circumstances, we're going to have to delay?
MS. MYERS: We may -- obviously, her two week absence has slowed the process down some. And I think we'll be a little more flexible now based on that, as you said, unforeseen circumstances.
Q You don't see it moving past May into June or July?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. But, again, Mr. Rodham's condition is still unclear and circumstances may arise -- I can't be absolutely certain about that.
Q Back to the budget. Are you leaving it up to Mitchell to negotiate a compromise, or have you given him instructions? How closely is Howard Paster working with him on what he's allowed to give away?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we'll have some input, but it's largely up to the Senate leadership to determine the parameters of a package. Now, we'll continue to press for job creation program and we'll see, as the process goes forward, what is possible.
Q This was largely a White House package to begin with, without a lot of input from Capital Hill. Why now --
MS. MYERS: Well, first of all, I disagree with the premise of that -- that there was a tremendous amount of input from Capital Hill throughout the process.
Q But the Senate leaders, when we asked their aides the same question, what can you deal on this, they say, we're taking our ques from the White House.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think what we've said all along is that we're continuing to work with Congress on this. Obviously, the final parameters will have to be decided by Congress in the context of the Senate rules. And we'll continue to monitor the process and work with Congress, but ultimately, any decisions made will be reached by the Senate leadership.
Q What are you doing at the White House to, sort of, set the parameters of what you all would like in this new reformed --
MS. MYERS: Well, consultations are ongoing every day as they have been throughout this process.
Q With Paster?
MS. MYERS: Well, he's the head of the Congressional Liaison operation so he's the point --
Q How involved is the President --
MS. MYERS: He's monitoring it closely. But obviously, the back-and-forth is happening in the Senate.
Q Are you dealing at all directly with Dole or are you just funneling everything through Mitchell?
MS. MYERS: We're continuing to deal with,particularly Democratic leaders.
Q Has the President or Howard Paster or anybody called Dole and spoken to him?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe the President has and I can't speak for Howard; I don't know.
Q What's the President going to do over Easter?
MS. MYERS: Unclear at this point. As soon as we have any final decisions on that, we'll let you know.
Q Possibility of travel?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I think it will depend in the next few days on how Mr. Rodham is and a few other things. Hopefully, we'll be able to let you know something in the next couple of days.
Q Do you have any idea on next week?
MS. MYERS: No, not yet. Easter egg roll on Monday. Don't want to miss that.
MS. MYERS: Is he going to be here for that?
MS. MYERS: Yes. Mrs. Clinton is hosting it.
Q Dee Dee, one of the points being made in all this is that the Republicans in the Senate have shown that they must be included in formation of legislation on health and other issues. That by forcing a stoppage on this issue that they have shown that they are a force that you must deal with, that the President must deal with on other issues henceforth. Will this have an impact on the way the President conducts himself vis-a-vis the Republicans on the Hill?
MS. MYERS: Well, the President has always said that he wanted to work with both parties in Congress. That's why there has always been wide --
Q They say he has not --
MS. MYERS: But that's -- I dispute that. And I think the members of Congress would dispute that. If you look, as we move forward on the formation of --
Q I don't think --
MS. MYERS: Maybe a tactical position -- as we move forward on the formation of health care policy there are innumerable members of the House and Senate staff that are participating on an ongoing basis; that is bipartisan. As you know, the President consulted widely with bipartisan members over the Russian aid package. He continues to meet with the bipartisan leaders every other week and with Democratic leaders every week. And I think he has consulted more widely with more members of Congress than any President in recent memory and he'll continue to do that.
Q Would the President like to see the rules changed about Senate filibusters?
MS. MYERS: I don't think the President has any control over the rules in the Senate. They are quite complicated, though.
Q Does the White House think that this situation might not have come to this point had President Clinton not been distracted by his involvement in the summit with Boris Yeltsin?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if -- Presidents are always dealing with a number of issues on a variety of different fronts; that comes with the territory. Clearly, the President spent a lot of time preparing the Russia aid package and getting ready for the summit, as you would expect, given that that's the most important strategic relationship that we face right now. I think he can do more than one thing effectively at one time. And he's going to continue to press for a job-creating package and hopefully we'll get one passed.
Q Give us a head's up on the week --
MS. MYERS: I don't have any details on the rest of the week. Maybe by later today or first thing tomorrow we'll know more.
Q Do you still expect the budget --
MS. MYERS: Yes, the budget's on Thursday. And Secretary Bentsen, the Chair of the Council on Economic Advisors and Leon Panetta will brief Thursday morning, 10:00 a.m. in 450 of the OEOB.
Q Does the President bring anything to the table with Mubarak in terms of the aid package between the United State and Egypt?
MS. MYERS: Well, clearly, they'll discuss that, and will have more to say -- I think the Presidents will have more to say about that at the press conference. And then there will be the readout afterwards and they can talk about the details of what was discussed.
Q Dee Dee, what happened to the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: It is a very dark and sad day. We'll wait and see what happens.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:16 A.M. EDT