THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS The Briefing Room
9:45 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: As you know, the President leaves this morning at 10:35 a.m. for the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The dedication ceremony will last from, roughly, 11:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The President will come back to the White House for lunch with Vice President Gore.
Then this afternoon he has his official photographs. No other events on the schedule this evening; just meetings here at the White House.
Tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. in the East Room the President will have a press conference. And then either Friday night or perhaps Saturday he will leave for Jamestown. And we're still waiting on details for the departure.
Q When will you let us know about that?
MS. MYERS: Probably later today.
Q George today?
MS. MYERS: George today I believe at 1:00 p.m.
Q Why is he having a news conference tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Just an opportunity for you all to quiz him about the many, many things that are on your minds.
Q One of them has to do with Waco. Why did we use a chemical that's banned by the International Prevention of Use of Warfare on a compound with a bunch of children in it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that it's banned. That's the first I've heard of that.
Q It was banned in January.
MS. MYERS: But it was -- it is safe and nonlethal for both adults and children, which is one of the reasons that it was chosen. But I would refer you to the FBI for specifics about chemical compounds.
Q Why would the U.S. sign a treaty, then, agreeing to ban its use in warfare if it's safe?
MS. MYERS: All I can tell you at this point is that it was chosen because it was nonlethal for both children and adults. I don't know about the treaty, but I will take that question and get back to you.
Q Were three of the persons' bodies with new bullet wounds?
MS. MYERS: They're still analyzing the results, but that was their preliminary finding yesterday, that three of the bodies did have bullet wounds, indicating that they had -- and the way one of them was found led the authorities to believe that the person was trying to escape the compound and may have been on fire at the time. I think further evidence that there were people in there trying to keep other people from leaving voluntarily.
Q Some of the partisans of the people in the compound are now saying that the fire was caused by a rupture of a propane tank.
MS. MYERS: This is the, I think now, the third formulation. The FBI, who was there on the ground, saw individuals engaging what they believe were fire-setting activities; and the fact that the fire erupted in several different parts of the compound roughly simultaneously I think dispute that. I think there is ample evidence to conclude that the fire was set from within.
Q Has the President received any new information on this?
MS. MYERS: He's continuing to receive reports about it, and I don't know how much specific information he has, other than --I don't know if anybody has gone through the details with him, but I think everybody there believes, the authorities on site believe that there is no question about the fact that that fire was set from within deliberately.
Q Can you provide any more specifics on this person who was found that you say leads to more evidence --
MS. MYERS: There were several news accounts about it. I don't have anything beyond that. And I, again, would refer you to the FBI or the Justice Department to see where they are in that investigation.
Q Did the President review the Attorney General's testimony that she's supposed to deliver this morning?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so.
Q When the President regroups and comes back next week with something in place of the jobs bill, what's it going to be? Is it going to be a part of the jobs bill?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that it will be a specific -- the President will meet or speak with, I think, the Democratic leadership today and over the weekend, I think to determine what the next step is. He's still committed to the principles and to as many of the elements as are possible to pass in the jobs bill. I think we'd like to see summer jobs, transportation monies released and spent. And we'll see, I think, after consultation with leadership what the best approach to that is, what's possible.
At this point, I think what's clear is that the Republicans have successfully -- they've agreed to spend money for people who don't have jobs, but they're not willing to do anything to create more jobs. I think it's unfortunate.
Q Will the President include Republican leadership in any of these discussions?
MS. MYERS: I think he's going to start by talking to the Democratic leaders. I think, as he has throughout this process, he's -- we've consulted with the Republican leaders. I think it's unfortunate that they never approached this thing in good faith. I think they constantly changed their story about why -- what their opposition was to it. First it was that it was loaded with pork and then it was that it wasn't paid for, and I think, finally, even some of the more moderate Republicans were saying that the Republican leadership never came to the table in good faith, they never intended to get a resolution.
Q Who said that? Who, pray tell, among the Republicans said that? Just name one, would be nice.
MS. MYERS: There was one.
MS. MYERS: -- and I -- I can't remember who. I read it in the newspaper this morning. I believe it was The Washington Post, Brit, but I'll be happy to look it up and point it out to you -- that he didn't think --
Q Well, you're the one who brought it up, Dee Dee. I didn't bring it up. I mean, it's not too much to ask you to get a name -- to name the name of somebody.
MS. MYERS: I'm happy to do that, Brit.
Q Did they say why they were disruptive or why they tried to block it? Was there any other speculation?
MS. MYERS: It depends on when you asked them. But I think that what's clear is that they went into this process without any clear intention of trying to work with the Democrats to pass the jobs bill. And that's too bad, and they successfully kept it from coming to the floor for a vote.
Q Two questions on the stimulus. First, is there any concern that as a result of what's happened in the Senate, that more House Democrats may be reluctant to vote for the deficit reduction -- the reconciliation bill? And, second, can you address this question that Rostenkowski has supposedly told the President to drop the investment tax credit -- is that correct?
MS. MYERS: In answer to the first part of your question, I think we're going to continue to work to pass the outlines of -- or to pass the specifics in the reconciliation package that were passed in the budget resolution. That had broad support; both Republicans and Democrats were optimistic that we -- and we'll continue to work very harder to get the components of the President's budget package through.
In reference to the second part of your question, we'd like to see the investment tax credit and other things. The President will continue to work with Congress to get those proposals through.
Q Has Rostenkowski advised the President to give up the investment tax credit?
MS. MYERS: I don't know in what form. I'll have to get back to you on that.
Q Dee Dee, to follow up on his question, with Rostenkowski against this and Moynihan expressing doubts on the investment tax credit, there are two of your biggest Democratic spokesmen on tax issues on the Hill. Where does this thing stand with the White House?
MS. MYERS: Well, we'll continue to work with Congress to try to get the components of the President's package through.
Q Does the President still believe strongly in the investment tax credit proposal that he's put forward?
MS. MYERS: He believes it's a good proposal. That's why he put it forward.
Q So there's no chance that he will change his mind and jettison it?
MS. MYERS: We will continue to talk to -- to consult with the leadership about this.
Q Has there been any change at all on the outlook on that?
Q This would change his mind and jettison it, in other words?
MS. MYERS: We're looking at it right now.
Q He might change his mind and drop the ITC?
MS. MYERS: I'm not --
Q Doing what right now?
MS. MYERS: The question was about the investment tax credit, and I assume also about the capital gains tax -- two things that Rostenkowski talked about. And what I said was that we're looking at it.
Q So the President could conceivably change his mind and drop this part of the ITC?
MS. MYERS: I'm not ruling it in and I'm not ruling it out. We just haven't said anything further about it yet.
Q Excuse me Dee Dee, you're looking at what? You're looking at what they've said or --
MS. MYERS: Congressional objections to the investment tax credit.
Q The Senate -- the Democratic leadership you said the President is going to talk to today. Are they coming down here or is this a phone conversation?
MS. MYERS: Yes, there is no meeting scheduled.
Q Why did the White House reject what the Republicans put forward as their alternative that provided for some of the programs that were important to you by getting the money be cutting other programs?
MS. MYERS: Because, first of all, the President's package was paid for in its original formulation. The Republicans rejected that so the President came back with a second alternative, which he believed was reasonable. He even offered to pay for part of it in the final package yesterday. And the Republicans continually rejected it. We didn't believe that what they offered was enough; we didn't think that it addressed the problems that the President thought needed to be addressed -- which is creating jobs, summer jobs, transportation money, immunization, things that he's talked about repeatedly throughout this process.
Q My understanding is the Republican alternative that was brought to the Democrats did provide for some of that.
MS. MYERS: It provided for a very, very limited amount of that. That was not acceptable.
Q A little was -- you'd rather have nothing at all?
MS. MYERS: Right. I mean, what we're going to do is to continue to fight for the things that were in that package because we believe they're important enough to continue to press forward on them. The President is still committed to creating more summer jobs than are currently in the 1993 fiscal budget. We're going to try to do that; we're also going to try to speed up funding on the transportation bill, and a few other things. We did not think what was in the Republican offer was either -- was a good faith offer or was enough.
Q What's the White House deadline for trying to obtain money for new summer jobs? How late can it go?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we have a deadline, but we'll continue to press in the near future.
Q How much lead time do you need to have the money in the pipeline in order to have summer jobs available in the summer?
MS. MYERS: Well, the more lead time you have, the better, obviously. I don't know that there's a specific drop-dead time. We think that if we could get funding relatively soon, that we could create summer jobs in time to fill them and to provide the kind of stimulus that we think would be important for the summer.
Q What vehicle will you use to try to get a summer jobs program?
MS. MYERS: I think that's one of the things we'll be discussing over the course of the next few days.
Q Well, won't you run into the same problem if it isn't funded -- if it isn't paid for specifically by chopping off something else that the Republicans are going to propose?
MS. MYERS: Well again, that's one of the things we're going to look at. But I think the President is still committed to getting some kind of summer jobs package through. We think that's --
Q When you say "paid for," what exactly do you mean by paid for?
MS. MYERS: That it's paid for -- in the five-year plan that the President outlined, the stimulus package -- the jobs package was included in a five-year plan which reduces the deficit and increased investment.
Q As I'm sure you're aware, there's an annual budget cycle in which items that are not otherwise offset by spending cuts or tax increases, are added to the deficit and must be paid for by a deficit financing -- by borrowing. You don't dispute, do you, that - -
MS. MYERS: No, we don't dispute that.
Q the money here would have required additional borrowing, which would be added to the debt, and while there may be some equal spending cuts in the future, that's not quite what is normally meant by "paid for," is it, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: We believe that over the course of the President's five-year budget package the jobs package was paid for. We conceded, or never disputed the fact that in the short-term it was not paid for this year, but that it is paid for over the course of the President's five-year package, which reverses 12 years of declining investment and increasing deficits. The President put forward the largest deficit reduction package in history, and we believe as part -- and it was done so with the stimulus package, with the jobs package in mind, and took into account the President's original proposal, which was $30 billion.
Q You don't think it stretches credibility slightly to call something paid for which is paid for out of future savings not yet realized, which may never be realized?
MS. MYERS: No, because the President put together a package that dramatically reduced the deficit and increased investment over five years. It's the biggest deficit reduction package in the history of this country, and it included -- it factored in additional spending for the jobs program this year. And it still managed to dramatically reduce the deficit over five years.
Q If it happens.
Q Since both you and Senator Mitchell have questioned the Republicans' sincerity in demanding that any of these programs be paid for in the current year, when you come up with this new package, are you going to try to answer those objections of the Republicans and pay for those programs in the first year?
MS. MYERS: Again, that's one of the things that we're consulting Democratic leaders about now. But I would point out to you that the Republicans have repeatedly voted for supplemental spending that was not paid for. They've done it -- they did it 130- some-odd times in the last 12 years, including in 1983, a $15-billion job proposal put forward by President Reagan that was not paid for, that included a lot of the same elements that you saw in this President's package, including unemployment benefits and summer jobs. So I think that if you look at their history on these types of issues that the claim it has to be paid for rings a little hollow. Plus that wasn't their -- I mean, they've raised a number of different objections and I'm not sure what the problem that they had with it is.
Q Well, Dee Dee, wasn't the message of the '92 election, or at least a part of it, that people didn't want any more of that?
MS. MYERS: I think that people clearly wanted change and wanted an end to gridlock. That's why they voted for President Clinton. That's why he put forward a new economic plan that changed the priorities of this country.
Q Isn't it fair for people to inquire whether a deficit-financed, $16-billion package of government spending to stimulate the economy represents not change, but the most conventional sort of approach to the problem?
MS. MYERS: I think that the American people were in favor of the jobs package, Brit. I think that if you go out there into the heartland, you will find people are very concerned about jobs. This is still a recovery without job creation. There is profound concern among American adults about their jobs.
Q But what is it about this approach, this deficitfinanced, government stimulus program that represents a new approach?
MS. MYERS: Because it is part of a five-year budget package that dramatically reduces the deficit. It increases investments in things like education and training and infrastructure. It radically changes the spending priorities of the last 12 years. And I think the President was more -- it includes 200 specific spending cuts. And I think the President has been more specific about --
Q What about this particular part of it, that --
MS. MYERS: It's part of a five-year plan. And I think the President has said repeatedly that he was -- he believes his primary objective as President right now is to create jobs, to get the economy moving again. And he said from the beginning --including things like the economic conference in Little Rock, that he saw two problems. One was a long-term structural problem. One was a shortterm jobs problem. He had a plan that addressed both. It was a short-term package that was aimed at investing immediately and creating jobs now, putting the American people back to work, and making sure that we don't see the recovery tail off again. Unemployment has been at 7 percent or higher for 16 consecutive months. Unemployment is still higher than it was at the trough of the recession in April of 1991. I think the President is concerned about those things. So he put forward a comprehensive package that did two things: it addressed the short-term problems, and the longterm structural problems.
Q Does it strike you that the reason the Republicans were able to get away with pulling off this filibuster and blocking this was that the pressure from home on all of them and, indeed, on some Democrats as well on this package was not only not strong in favor of it, but resulted in a lot of phone calls and mail that made them all think that they were going to be anything but in political trouble because of opposing this?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't --
Q I mean, does that cross your radar screen anywhere -- that notion?
MS. MYERS: Brit I think that -- all of the survey research and evidence that I've seen, including a lot of the phone calls into the White House suggest that people are for this, that they are concerned about their jobs. I can't speak to every single congressional and Senator's home offices, but I think that there is broad support for the jobs package.
I also think that I would not want to be a member of the United States Senate that has to go home and defend why you're willing to spend money to give money to people who are unemployed, but you are not willing to spend money to create jobs -- why you want to block a program from even being voted on that has the majority support of both the House and the Senate and the American people. And particularly -- and why it is that the Republicans feel like they have to hold up action on a measure meant to create jobs. I would not want to have to defend that during a reelection campaign if I was a member of the United States Senate.
Q Can you be more specific about relatively soon as a timetable for getting the summer jobs aspect of this being passed? I mean, you've only got about six weeks between now and the end of the school year.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q And you're very concerned about creating summer jobs in places that you think could stand them as a buffer against summer violence.
MS. MYERS: I don't have a specific timetable. We just don't have one; obviously as soon as possible.
Q Was Under Secretary of Defense John Deutch in compliance with the President's executive order on government travel when he took that Air Force jet over to Brussels over the weekend?
MS. MYERS: Yes, we believe he was.
MS. MYERS: Our Legal Counsel has looked at it. The way the executive order was structured, it did include a provision -- and I'll have to double-check exactly how it's worded -- that took into account when people had business that they had to get back for, or it would cause a significant disruption in their schedule and would force them to miss important meetings or other things. So let me check the specific language on it, but we do believe he was in compliance.
Q The museum speech today -- does the President have anything by way of announcements of any sort in there, or is he going to just simply discuss along the same lines that he did last night?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think along the same lines. He will not be talking about the jobs package.
Q Is he likely to talk about Bosnia?
MS. MYERS: I think it comes up, yes.
Q Dee Dee, are you aware of, do you have any comment on the apparent withdrawal of the Bulgarian delegation from the Holocaust activities, alleging a snub by the administration because they weren't listed among the countries that helped save people during the Holocaust?
MS. MYERS: No, I'll have to take that question.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END10:14 A.M. EDT