THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS The Briefing Room
2:10 P.M. EDT
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good afternoon. As you all know, the President took a detour on his way home from the Jefferson Memorial, and he went to the Especially Arkansas exhibit at the Willard Hotel. I think he's enjoying it and will be back shortly.
Q What kind of exhibit is it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Arkansas food, handicrafts. (Laughter.) Would you like to speak up? Andrea Mitchell speaking for the President today.
Q George, on the latest retail sales figures, Senator Dole says that you guys are trying to mislead the American public by suggesting this has anything to do with the stimulus package, that the downward numbers are the result of the blizzard, the bad weather, and it underscores the need to delay the stimulus package, not to support the stimulus package.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me take that all in for a second. Well, I think you can always find an excuse to do nothing. And the Senate Republicans have, time and time again, come up with excuses to do nothing. But for 12 years we did nothing as this economy did not grow, did not create jobs, and now we're going to continue to -- now we're going to move forward.
Q What? Are you saying the economy didn't create any jobs for 12 years?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me -- for the last three and a half years we had no growth, probably the lowest growth in this century. But I would add that this morning's figures were the largest monthly decline in retail sales since January of 1991 when we were in a full-fledged recession. That is not something that President Clinton is complacent about. That is not something he is going to stand by as it goes on. And it's one of the reasons that we need a jobs package now, to make sure that this recovery does happen, to make sure that this economy creates jobs.
I would also point out that the real benefits of this jobs package -- right now the gridlock in the Senate is blocking the creation of 50,000 summer jobs in New York, 22,500 summer jobs in Pennsylvania. The gridlock is preventing the city of Milwaukee from receiving waste water treatment funds it needs to clean up the contamination in its water system. The gridlock is preventing the rehabilitation of 100 low income housing units in Duluth, Minnesota, and stopping the construction of a new fire station in Kansas City, Kansas.
Q Does that sound like it is going to do much for retail sales?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Anything that gets the economy moving again and gets people back to work so they can spend money and buy products is going to be helpful.
Q Why do you think that $16 billion is going to have any effect on a $6-trillion economy?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that 500,000 jobs right now, this summer, this year is going to make a difference.
Q Have we reached a point where it's too late to get those jobs?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all. This bill -- we can pass it. We have a vote scheduled for April 20th and we can get these funds into the cities and states in time to create summer jobs, and it will make a real difference.
Q Why are a fire house in Kansas City and Milwaukee water problems economic emergencies?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: These will create jobs. These are projects that have been put forward by the cities --
Q But anything the government spends money on will create jobs by implication. Any project across the country that the government would spend money -- why these particular projects are considered enough of an economic emergency to waive the Budget Act and --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: These projects have been put forward by the cities and states, as you know. The President's package is going to create summer jobs, it's going to create highway jobs, it's going to put real investments in immunization and Head Start and other important programs. And it's going to create, as we've said time and time again, 500,000 jobs. We think that's an important investment.
Q As good as 500,000 jobs would be, George, for the people who get them, the opposition is saying that they really amount to a drop in the bucket and that you have to depend on the economy to generate far more jobs than that to really have any effect.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what we've been doing for the last three and a half years and it hasn't been working. We've had a recovery without jobs. And right now the President is committed to getting a recovery that creates jobs. That's why he's pushing for this package now. That's why he wants a vote. That's why he thinks it should pass.
Q George, if the package is that important, why didn't the President ask Mitchell to keep the Senate in session until he could get a vote?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the President did -- the Senate did stay in session past its scheduled break. He would like a vote as quickly as possible. And he's going to take this time to push for the package.
Q My question is, did the President make any effort to keep the Senate in session until he finally got a vote?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Senate did stay in session, and I don't know that staying any longer would have made a difference. They've scheduled a vote, we have a vote on Tuesday and we're looking forward to it.
Q Is there any thought in the White House that it might have been better for your purposes to have kept the Senate going instead of letting these guys go on junkets and enjoy two weeks of doing nothing?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q George, apropos of the Tokyo meeting in the next couple of days, we were told in Vancouver that some of the initial U.S. package could be and would be delivered starting tomorrow, I think was the way the background briefer put it. Can you tell us what aspects of that Vancouver Russia aid package have actually been implemented to date?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They were all ready to go immediately upon the announcement. I don't know exactly the status of the pipeline. I'm going to have to send you to State on that. I don't have the figures on what funds are actually flowing now, but I know that since they had all gone through the congressional process, they were all available for that. I just don't have that available, and I'll have to send you to State.
Q Are there specific projects that had maybe a little higher priority than some of the others that you'd like to see move --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I just don't -- we would like to get as much of it done as quickly as possible. We think that it's important to show a tangible difference right away to the Russian people. But I don't have the specifics.
Q Has the President spoken with Boris Yeltsin since the summit? Does he plan to do it in the next couple of days?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He has not spoken yet to President Yeltsin. I believe there was an exchange of letters this weekend; they were exchanged between Foreign Minister Kozyrev and Secretary of State Christopher. I would expect that they would probably talk sometime soon, but I don't have a set time.
Q What about the next aid package, due by tomorrow if his timetable is --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Secretary Bentsen and Secretary Christopher are in Tokyo now, and I know they're in discussions on that, but we have nothing to announce yet.
Q What is the purpose of the Chamber meeting tonight, the town meeting? And, also, how important are good relations with the Chamber and the White House, and how would you describe that relationship?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we've had a real productive relationship with the Chamber of Commerce so far this year. I think most members of the Chamber know that it's time to invest in our economy again, know that it's time to do something serious about getting the deficit down and know that we have to get the economy moving, and they're willing to work with the President to make those investments, to make sure that we have the kinds of investments in small businesses that we need. And the President is looking forward to meeting with them tonight, taking to them about his economic plans, and hearing what's on their mind.
Q Is the President concerned that several thousand members, apparently, of the Chamber have quit in protest of the Chamber's friendly overtures to the President and its praise for his economic programs?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think what the President has welcomed is the overwhelming support of the bulk of the Chamber, and how helpful they've been so far. I don't know what's happening internally in the Chamber, but we welcome their support.
Q Congressman Gephardt was quoted today as saying that the money to pay for the second -- the fiscal `94 Russia package should come or would come from foreign aid to Israel and Egypt.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if that's exactly what he said. I think what he might have said is that we should do a full review for how to pay for programs before they're done. But I can just talk about the President's position. The President does not believe, as he's said time and time again, that we should cut aid to Israel and Egypt at this time, and he intends to go forward with the budget numbers.
Q So he is going to go forward with Israel and Egypt having what amounts to 85 percent of the foreign aid budget, right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's going to go forward with the budget he's put forward, yes.
Q Well, that doesn't -- does that necessarily break down Israel and Egypt's money? I mean, that's the whole foreign aid money, but have you -- I'm not aware of whether or not you've done --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There will be no change in the aid levels to Israel and Egypt. The President is committed to going forward with the funding as planned.
Q Well, just to follow, Gephardt did -- at least was quoted as saying --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He wasn't -- well, I've seen that. That wasn't a quote, it was a report. And I'm saying that he has -- he clearly did say that everything should be under review. The President does not believe that aid to Israel and Egypt should be under review.
Q conversation between the President and Gephardt about this issue since he's returned?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of, no.
Q How about between you and Gephardt?
Q Are you just talking about next year or after that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President has said that he's going to move forward with the package for next year, and do his best efforts after that.
Q George, Christopher said to reporters yesterday on his way out that there were some final details of the aid package that he wanted to talk to the President about before presenting them at the G-7 meeting. Has he talked to the President yet? Where does that stand?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. They might have talked last night or this morning; I just don't know if there's been a direct phone call. I'm certain there will be before the end of the meeting.
Q The Speaker of the House and the bipartisan leadership have written a letter to the Court here in Washington notifying them of their intent to file an amicus curiae brief on the side opposite the White House contention that the FACA law is unconstitutional. I wonder if you've discussed that with them or if you have any feeling about reassessing your position in this case.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's the first I've heard of it, but we'd be happy to take a look.
Q Can you get back to me?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Sure.
Q Is the administration considering using U.S. troops to provide humanitarian assistance to Haiti?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the U.N. and the OAS have been looking at ways to professionalize the Haitian military and the police, and the U.S. has looked in -- may participate in this effort as part of a global political solution to the crisis. But I think this is all very premature. The professionalization in and of itself was included in the terms of reference for the international civilian observer mission and President Aristide's letter to the U.N. and OAS Secretaries General.
Q Could you go a little slower? You're saying something very important.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q You're going to commit American troops --
Q The rest of the time talk fast. (Laughter.)
Q Can you give us some ideas what you're thinking about doing?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, first of all, let's get something -- the Pentagon has not announced any plans to send U.S. troops. We are not sending U.S. troops now.
Q Would this be training, is that what you're saying?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Professionalization training --
Q And it might happen when, under what circumstance?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Pursuant to an agreement. But this is all very premature. Our special representative, Pezzullo, is here meeting with the principals in the National Security Council today and reporting to Tony Lake. And this was something that was always contemplated as part of a possible agreement. But there are no plans to send troops at this time.
Q Would it be multilateral?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely.
Q Is the professionalizing military or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Training, professionalization of military. I'm not sure about law enforcement.
Q How close are you to an agreement on Haiti?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, Mr. Caputo is returning to Haiti. Mr. Pezzullo is here. We're in discussions now. We're hopeful that the negotiation will continue and be successful.
Q There are reports that it's expected to work out --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know about the timing, but we're hopeful that we can get a conclusion to this, a peaceful conclusion.
Q This is with the junta? You're negotiating with them? Is that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's being led by the U.N. He's negotiating with all sides.
Q Dee Dee this morning, George, said you might be able to tell us what the President's role is in the strategy on Waco, whether or not the President has directed that he sign off on any plan to assault the compound.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President, as Dee Dee said this morning, is briefed on Waco, but the operational responsibility here rests with the Attorney General; the FBI; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. I would assume he's informed of developments, but he does not have operational control.
Q And he hasn't asked for veto authority?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He has not, no.
Q What about the Treasury Secretary? He seemed to suggest over the weekend that he has ordered that he be informed before any move is made.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think you would have to ask him. I think he would like to be informed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes under the Department of the Treasury. I'd assume he would want to know what's happening. But the operational responsibility rests with the FBI and the ATF.
Q Do you know if the Justice Department has made a command decision not to assault the compound?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not going to talk about those kinds of details.
Q Some of the FBI and ATF agents in Waco are alleging that the Clinton administration is micromanaging their operational details, that they can't organize some sort of operation because Washington won't let it happen.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not true.
Q On two more trouble spots. Today there was more killing in Israel. Does the administration still expect the talks to start next week, and do you have any general comments on this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as we've done continually, we deplore the violence as it happens. We recognize Israel's need to protect its own security, but we remain hopeful that we will have both sides -- all sides come to the table next week.
Q And also, on the question I asked about Haiti, has the President -- I'm sorry -- about South Africa, has the President contacted the family --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge.
Q The Washington Times today says that the stimulus package includes $1.4 million that was supposed to be for the IRS but got shifted over to White House. Can you tell us, A, is that correct? And, B, what possible economic stimulus could there come out of money going to the IRS and not the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, first of all, the supplemental appropriation for the White House is not part of the stimulus bill, it's completely separate. And the funds from the Treasury Department are from money for the rental of facilities that was appropriated last year for FY 1993 that the Treasury has determined will not be needed. And this was determined a number of weeks ago. It falls into three IRS areas: processing tax returns and assistance, tax law enforcement information systems. This is rental money that is not needed. It's nothing else. It will have no impact on law enforcement, nor will it have an effect on the stimulus.
Q Is it not, therefore, included in the stimulus?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. The White House money is separate. It was in the budget.
Q No, it's included in a separate supplemental, right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Separate supplemental, right. That's different.
Q You're saying absolutely not part of the stimulus?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a separate supplemental that was sent up last week as part of it -- right.
Q None of it, not one penny of it?
Q George, another quick Russia-related question. Is the President going to meet with Gorbachev at all while he's here in the country?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of.
Q Why not?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's just not scheduled. He met with President Yeltsin last week and he's got a lot of things to do.
Q Can you tell us something about the summer jobs event tomorrow with Reich and Riley, whether the President -- in Crystal City?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They're doing a conference on the summer jobs program on how to implement it. And it's the various parts of the summer jobs program. The President will participate, I believe, at the top.
Q He's just coming in for remarks?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q What time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. We'll get back to you.
Q Mentioned the exchange of letters over the weekend between Kozyrov and Christopher. Can you tell us anything about what was in the exchange of letters?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it was related to the issue of Russia's efforts on Serbia and trying to get Serbia to come to the negotiating table.
QQ Can I follow on the summer jobs with the figures you were talking about earlier today about summer jobs? We've had a lot of figures tossed around about summer jobs. The President has said at one point 700,000. I think somebody once said 1 million. There has been a lot of talk about 500,000. How many summer jobs are actually to be created under Clinton administration programs? And then how many total federal government summer jobs are there, including what was established last year by the Bush administration?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The total of summer jobs is 700,000. The 500,000 figure is overall jobs over time from the entire jobs package. But the figure for summer jobs, I believe, is 700,000.
Q Of which that would include the Bush administration or past years programs?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, no, it includes what is passed in this program. I don't know how it backs up, but if this program is passed we'll have 700,000 summer jobs.
Q Beyond that, including programs already in existence, do you know how many summer jobs the federal government would be creating?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't.
Q How many summer jobs will there be if the program doesn't pass? The 700,000, you say -- are all 700,000 of those directly related to this bill?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe it is, but I'll have to get back to you. I don't know about current programs.
Q Any response to Dole's acid remarks yesterday about the President on the stimulus package?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's words speak for themselves. The President believes his package is important and he believes that the Republicans in the Senate have been making a mistake to block the will of the majority and to pass this jobs program.
Q? There's a report in The Journal today that the White House has denied another member of Congress White House tour tickets in order to get some sort of resolution. Has this White House ever denied any member of Congress access to the normal number of tour tickets?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The tour tickets is a nonpolitical process and its just going forward.
Q Hold on. Not so fast, George. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What? (Laughter.)
Q Is this the first administration in recorded history not to use them as a political --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We have honored lots and lots of requests from different members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. We will continue to do that.
Q Let's get back to the question now. Has anybody ever been denied them?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge.
Q If the fire station in Kansas City, Kansas isn't built -- (laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The people of Kansas City, Kansas will be sorry.
Q Will the people in Kansas have Bob Dole to blame for that? Will the people of Kansas City, Kansas, be able to blame Bob Dole for that? (Laughter.)
Q if their house burns down. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That depends on what he does April 20th.
Q Where is the process now? Are you beginning to deal, compromise?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has said time and time again that he's willing to make adjustments if necessary to pass the program. He doesn't want to. He wants the program to pass as quickly as possible. But if the minority is determined to block action, he's going to move forward with the adjustments that it will take to get the package going.
Q Has the President talked --
Q What do you mean?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, not any adjustments -- we'll be in discussions on it.
Q Have any Republicans come to you yet with adjustments?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There have been lots of discussions with Republicans.
Q Specifically, has the President talked with some of the so-called moderate Republicans who might be inclined to support a compromise this week? Has he talked to them?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if the President has, but there's been a lot of contact between the White House and Senate Republicans, sure.
Q Is there any relationship between the contacts you've had and the states that you read off at the top -- Pennsylvania, New York --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily. We have figures on a lot of states. We're talking to a lot of members. That's what I was given, you know.
Q Who did you mention -- Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York?
Q George, all sides on the stimulus have until 6:00 a.m. on Monday to put their amendments down on the table if they intend to do so. Is the President going to have an amendment on the stimulus to put down on the table in the Senate by Monday evening?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if the President will, but I assume that there will be a Democratic package and amendment.
Q But it's going to represent the President's particular --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to be in discussions this week, and we expect to have a package that the President supports voted on.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Tuesday.
Q George are you aware that all the parties of the Middle East negotiations are actually arriving today and tomorrow? Is that part of a prenegotiation that the administration is planning?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not aware of that. I'd refer you to State. It's the first I've heard of it.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:30 P.M. EDT