THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MR. STEPHANOPOULOS
The Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EST
Q Before we run out of camera time, what odds do you currently give the President's health care plan for getting through this year?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think we're going to do everything we can to get it through this year. I don't think -- I'm not an odds maker but we're going to work hard. We're trying to get this proposal ready now for presidential introduction, and we believe it's important to get health care done as soon as possible and we'd like to get it done this year.
Q How do you overcome the pessimism of the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who doesn't seem to think that this is feasible?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to continue to work with Chairman Rostenkowski on this bill. And I think he's also said that he's going to do what he can to get the President's program through as quickly as possible. Obviously, it's not easy. If it had been easy it would have been done some time over the last 12 years. But the President is committed to moving forward on health care reform to provide real security to American families to get costs under control and to give the American families the peace of mind they need when they're considering health care.
Q Has the President talked to Joe Biden about Bosnia and any of those on the Hill who are concerned, pro and con, about the possibility of air strikes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know we're planning a series of meetings with congressional leaders on Bosnia this week, at least some meetings. I don't know if he's talked to Senator Biden. I know that Senator Biden has communicated with the White House, has submitted some sort of report to the President, and, obviously, the President has read Senator Biden's strong views after his trip to Bosnia. We take that very seriously, and I expect that he will be, if he hasn't already spoken to Senator Biden, he certainly will be speaking with him this week.
QQ Is the objective of those discussions with congressional leaders to solicit information from them or to convey -- sound them out on the decision the White House has or is about to make?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think we'll certainly consult with congressional leaders before the President makes any final decision on his policy towards Bosnia. We have been doing that, we will continue to do that. And then we will also work with them after a decision is made. But clearly, we'll consult with them before a decision is made.
Q Isn't that required under the War Powers Act and what is his view of the War Powers Act and what the obligations are in terms of congressional notification?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that would depend on what the policy is. Right now we don't need any War Powers authorization for the President's current policy, but that was a hell of a try. (Laughter.)
Q In these consultations, to try again on Tom's question, are you trying to build support for a particular policy or are you soliciting views on what policy should be adopted?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, first you solicit views on what policies should be adopted and then we're going to try and build support for it. But the President hasn't made a decision yet and he will consult with congressional leaders before he does.
Q Are you looking towards building support or soliciting views for some sort of pressuring action on Serbia? Or at this point, are you looking to find some other sort of diplomatic vehicle with the end of Vance-Owen as apparently a useful vehicle?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think the President will have a comprehensive statement on a new policy and when we have the final details we'll be able to put it out. But we simply don't have it yet. The President has not yet made his decisions.
Q President called Boris Yeltsin?
Q spoken to any foreign leaders in the last three days?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We suspect he's going to call him this afternoon. I know he's trying to place a call. And after the call we'll certainly have some sort of a statement.
Q any particular allies on this Bosnia issue in the last three days?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that Tony Lake has had several discussions with his counterparts in the allied nations. I don't know that the President has had any new phone calls. He is going to try and talk to President Mitterrand either today or tomorrow.
Q George, could you tell us why taxpayers should have paid for that brochure on the first 100 days? What is the justification for that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, this is something that is done by all presidents. In fact, President Bush produced a document entitled The Goals and Accomplishments of the Bush Administration. We want to make sure the American people know what we're doing with the taxpayers' dollars. We want to make sure they know of the accomplishments in the first 100 days, the activities of the President, everything he's done and everything he's trying to do.
I should point out, we've printed 2,000 of this document at a cost of $5,225.
Q George, coming back to Bosnia -- the Russians are warning against unilateral action and the Europeans seem to be stepping back. Can you imagine the administration bombing Serbian positions without an international coalition?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President has said, and he said most recently on Friday, that he wants this to be a multilateral effort and he believes that it will be. We're going to continue to do everything we can to make this a multilateral effort. And we expect that it will be.
Q George, Senator Biden has suggested possibly putting forward a resolution in the Senate to basically project support for some kind of military operation. Does the President think that would be useful at this time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we're going to talk to members of the House and the Senate about the most useful approach at this time. Obviously, we don't want to do anything to preclude the House or the Senate from letting their views known, as they have let their views known over the last several days and weeks, on the issue of Bosnia. We're going to solicit their views and their advice as we move forward.
Q Is it a somewhat more serious issue now that there is increasing evidence of the Serbians supplying the Bosnian Serbians, that it now is a cross-border operation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's clearly a matter of great concern. It's precisely why we're doing what we can to tighten the sanctions, even as we speak. I mean, the President is concerned to tighten the screws on Bosnia. I think that the -- excuse me, on Serbia. And I think the Serbians are concerned about that as well, and that's why we're freezing American business interests in Serbia. It's why we're banning American ships from moving into Serbia. It's why we're banning shipping into Serbian-controlled areas. And we're giving the U.S. the right to board any ships that do -- that we suspect are violating that embargo. As you know, Leon Fuerth will be giving a backgrounder on the full range of the new sanctions later today. We think it's important.
Q How about dissecting the Boston Globe interview for us?
Q Can I just follow up on that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Dissecting?
Q Yes. Dissecting what the President had to say on air strikes.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What specifically?
Q It seems to be very -- it seems to be in contradiction to what he was saying Friday.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think is a contradiction?
Q Well, he said basically that he didn't think that air strikes would do the trick, didn't he -- of changing anything politically. Isn't that the thrust of the --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, again, you have to be careful about how things are played from actually the transcript into the article.
Q Tell us what he was trying to say, will you?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think one of the things he was trying to point out is just that air strikes on their own might not be enough of a comprehensive policy and that there are obviously pros and cons to that issue. But he was not signaling in any way a decision on that issue.
Q Well, you mean he would need further military action or other moves?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the President will have an announcement when he's finally made some decisions. But clearly, we want to do what we can on the diplomatic front as well. We also have the no-fly zone. We also have sanctions. And we're going to have a comprehensive policy towards Bosnia.
Q Is the President confident at this point in time that the tough new sanctions he issued today will do it -- that he won't have to take any further action?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the President is looking forward to making new announcements on his Bosnia policy. Obviously, we hope that these sanctions, by tightening the screws on Serbia, will have an effect in Bosnia. And I think that the Serbians certainly seem to at least be concerned about the possibility of these sanctions taking an effect. Every time we tighten on the Serbs we hope it will have a real effect on their activities in Bosnia, and we think that over time it will.
Q George, can you give us what the response has been since Perot's speech last night on television? Has there been any -- can you give us any kind of sense about what the telephone response was?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if there's any change at all.
Q You don't know that there was --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I haven't checked. I mean, it's not something we're --
Q Any reaction to it here?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: To Perot's? I didn't see it.
Q Did anybody watch it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I haven't asked anybody if they watched it.
Q Do you have any concern that Perot will affect the passage of the budget -- the actual implementation of the budget resolution?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm sorry. I missed the question. There's a lot of talking up here in the front -- (laughter) -- a few TV reviews. Susan wants to tell us about Perot's TV show, but -- (laughter).
Q If she's finished, let me ask -- (laughter) -- if it will have any effect? Do you think that Perot will have any effect on the passage of the President's plan -- the details of his budget outline?
No, I really don't. I think that the President's package is -- has had good success so far with the passage of the budget in record time, and we're going to move right now towards the reconciliation process and try and get as many of the investments as we can and move forward on final passage of the President's budget. I don't think it will have an effect one way or the other.
Q George, do you think that Perot is being helpful or is he a complete pain in the neck. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As opposed to a partial? (Laughter.) I think that what the American people want is action. They want action on getting a jobs package through. They want action on reducing the deficit. They want action on getting this economy moving again, and they don't want words; and we're providing action.
Q George, Senator Dole says that sanctions have never worked before, why do we think they're going to work this time. And isn't this just another effort to buy time.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think I've also seen Senator Dole say that he would support further action by the President. And the President is looking forward to further action. We believe that sanctions can have an effect over time, and we expect that they will. We're pleased that we've gotten the strongest support from our allies to tighten the sanctions. Now, that is not the sum of our policy, and we expect to have more to say later.
Q When do you expect to have more to say?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have a timetable. I just don't have a timetable.
Q You keep saying that the President, when he makes his decision on Bosnia, will talk to congressional leaders.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Before he makes his decision.
Q Before he makes his decision? Well, the Constitution says that the Congress is supposed to put us into war. This is going to be putting us into war. Is he going to consult with Congress -- all of Congress or just a few leaders?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is going to have full consultation with Congress.
Q When he talks to Mr. Yeltsin today, if he does, is he going to raise the issue of whether he might get Yeltsin's support for what he wants to do in Bosnia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the thrust of the phone call today will be to congratulate President Yeltsin on what appears to be a solid victory for the democratic process in Russia, a great step forward and other ways that we can continue to work to further the democratic reform process in Russia.
Q Do you think this is going to make it easier to pass the additional money that Clinton had talked about for Russia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that clearly, any step forward in the democratic process in Russia is a good step and something that we want to applaud and encourage. And the President wants to move forward on this package, along with our allies, because he thinks it's important not only for Russian democratic political and economic reform, but it's also in the interest of Americans.
Q Will he tell Yeltsin that he will, indeed, come to Moscow at a certain date?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that that will be decided today.
Q Last week, you mentioned that the Secretary of State had talked to the Vice Minister of Foreign Relations of Russia. Everybody's aware that the plebiscite yesterday -- nobody wanted to rock the boat in Russia. Now that the plebiscite is over and basically Yeltsin will continue and has a pretty decent mandate, can the United States and other allies try to change the Russian vote from neutral at the U.N. --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we were encouraged that they abstained last week on the sanctions resolution and we're going to continue to work with Russia and all of our allies in getting a strong policy against Serbian aggression.
Q George, could you update us on what the administration is doing at this point toward its goal of lifting the ban on gays in the military? Are there ongoing discussions at this point with the Pentagon, for example?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, as you know, the Pentagon is in the midst of reviewing that policy. The hearings are going on in the Congress and we expect to receive the reports from the Pentagon relatively soon. And they'll present their final findings to the President on July 15.
Q So are you basically sitting back and waiting for those reports to come in?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. The studies -- well, we have encouraged the Pentagon to go forward with these studies; they are. And when they have something to report they will.
Q George, earlier today your office released a list of members of this new health care review panel, the panel that's going to be reviewing the proposals of the task force. I think Dee Dee put it out. Do you know when they're going to meet, when this review panel's meeting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't. I'll have to take the question. I just don't know.
Q This comprehensive statement, this is the first time -- maybe I missed something in the speech in Boston -- this is the first time I heard that there will actually be a comprehensive policy statement from the President. Is that in promoting a new option or just a review, or what?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know --
Q Has the President been planning this for --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, the President said that he would have a new policy statement on Bosnia sometime in the near future. It really wasn't meant to be anything new.
Q This is a comprehensive --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Comprehensive I think is -- I mean, I think that's just what the President's policy will be. But I wasn't meaning to signal anything terribly new.
Q Is the President as confident as he appeared to be on Friday at his news conference that the French and the British are getting closer to the American point of view about the feasibility of air strikes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know that that was exactly what he said. I mean, he said he's in consultation and he believes that in the end we will have support for our policy and it will be a multilateral approach. And I think that's what we hope for.
Q the allies were coming closer to your position.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we're going to continue to work with the allies, and we certainly hope --
Q Are you saying that maybe there is a meeting of minds on this option, air strikes, after the --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I can't speak to a specific option. I know that we have been talking to them, but that's what we're working towards.
Q George, why are you bringing in health care professionals this late in the game -- a new task force in health care reform? Did you not have enough clinicians initially in your 500-some people in your working groups?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We've had health care professional involved through the whole process. This is just a supplement to that, I believe. I don't have the exact numbers in front of me. Again, I'd have to take the question. I have not seen this release this morning. But, as you know, we had I think 60 health care professionals on the original health care task force at least. That exact number may not be correct, but we've had representations from doctors and nurses and clinicians, and a wide range of health care professionals. And we're quite confident that we have the representation from the professionals that we need to go forward with a good policy. I would also point out that we've solicited jurors from the AMA and other health care professionals.
Q You said that you're looking for European support for your actions. The President all along had been saying that he wanted the Europeans to take a lead in solving the problems in the former Yugoslavia. Is he now saying that they're not going to do it and he's going to lead whatever effort in developing a U.S. policy?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the President said on Friday that the U.S. has a responsibility to lead and he accepts that responsibility. But we're not going to go it alone.
Q George, on the Middle East peace talks -- it's the eve of the talks; do you have any statements tonight?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we are just looking forward to the resumption to the talks tomorrow, and we hope they're going to be successful. We're committed to a successful outcome to these talks. We're happy that all sides have agreed to come to the table, and we're ready to get to work.
Q Did the President decide to meet with parties at any stage?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think there are any plans for that right now.
Q Would the administration be in favor of closing down all Western embassies in Belgrade?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I've never heard that discussed, but I'll take the question.
Q George, is the President committed still to limiting PAC contributions to $1,000 a candidate, as he was during the election?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's committed to comprehensive campaign finance reform. We hope to have an announcement, I hope later this week if not a little later than that, but I expect it will be this week. And we'll have details on that in a couple of days.
Q And Dee Dee said there would be no consultation with Senator Dole. Does that still stand?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that the President will necessarily speak to him, but Senators Mitchell and Boren and Ford are going to reach out and talk to Republicans and we're going to try and make sure the Republicans know what we're doing and try and get their support before we go forward.
Q In their 100-day review, Republicans today released a videotape of broken campaign promises. I want to know what your reaction is to this effort, and also to their pledge to block tax increases in the Senate Finance Committee.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like politics, first of all. Secondly, I think that the President has said time and time again -- (laughter) -- you guys all look shocked. (Laughter.)
The President's committed to, as you know, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, as he put forward in his tax plan. He's also come forward with a modest energy tax because -- as a downpayment on the deficit. We're committed to that. If the Republicans are going to continue gridlock, that's their choice. But it's not what the American people called for in the election and it's not what they want right now. But the President has also kept his central commitments in the campaign to get this economy moving again. That's why he's moved forward on his economic package, and that's why we're going to continue to move forward now. That's why he's moved forward on campaign finance, why he's moved forward on national service and why he's moved forward on all the other initiatives -- on welfare reform, urban policy, that he was committed to in the campaign. And we feel good about that.
Q How do you defend permitting major corporations to opt out of the new health care system when that would mean large numbers of people won't have access to the improved system that you're suggesting?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll explain, defend and promote the health care plan when it's announced.
Q Well, it may not be announced, but it's leaked to every news magazine and most newspapers. So, obviously, a decision has been made on recommendations.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just don't think you can make that assumption.
Q How do you square that with the announcement by those same anonymous briefers two or three weeks ago that every individual, every American would have the right to choose a health care alliance that goes outside of his or her own company?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just can't comment on proposals that haven't been made yet. And when the President has made his proposal, we'll comment.
Q I can understand that if you weren't -- you collectively, the White House -- weren't simultaneously leaking all of these decisions stage by stage. You can't have it both ways. You can't say, I'll comment on that when the President makes his recommendations, and at the same time have similar, exact stories in all of these major publications day after day.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: When the President has an announcement, we'll explain and defend them. He just has not made any decisions yet. I think for you to assume that a decision has been made because something appears in the newspaper is just wrong.
Q I didn't say decision, I said recommendation before his decision.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You did say decision earlier.
Q Well, I stand corrected. Is this just another trial balloon?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This is a story in the newspaper. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong.
Q Several newspapers, several news magazines.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just can't comment on them.
Q Your own 100 days document said that you were going to put out campaign finance reform, I think, tomorrow. Now, you're saying it will be later this week or possibly next week. Is there some problem? Have there been objections?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's just a matter of scheduling. And as I said, I hope it will be this week. I don't think it will be tomorrow, but I hope it will be this week.
Q Are we going to use women pilots if we go into Bosnia and are we going to use them -- (Laughter.) And will we have to draft pilots?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think we'll have to go into a draft, I'm quite confident of that. As you know, a number of the services have been looking at the issue of women in combat and there have been some reports issued. And we're also in the process -- at least the Pentagon is also in the process of reviewing that. And, again, there's no decision made yet, but I think it's something that we're looking at.
Q On that subject, is the President familiar with General McPeak's statements last week that he, for one, can't envision having women in combat roles as pilots, and that to him it was like old men sending young women into battle --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that -- this is under review at the Pentagon now and under review at the services, and we're waiting for a report.
Q Is the President aware of General McPeak's comments?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure.
Q Has the campaign finance proposal been slowed down by resistance from Democrats in Congress?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so, no. We've been working closely with the Democrats in Congress trying to push for real reform, and I think that we're going to get it.
Q George, are you going to -- are you thinking about going to Los Angeles on Thursday? Is the President thinking about going to Los Angeles?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think we're going to Los Angeles on Thursday.
Q Where are we going on Friday?
Q What about Friday -- where?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We think the President is going to be --
Q Same time zone, different time zone?
Q Day trip?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Probably same time zone. Day trip.
Q All right. (Laughter.)
Q By airplane or bus?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:40 P.M. EDT