THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS The Briefing Room
1:24 P.M. EDT
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: First of all, Dee Dee left out the most important factor in Don Steinberg's resume. He also did a stint with Congressman Gephardt, which is good service in this administration.
Q On Bosnia what are you hearing?
Q And what do you know?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And when did I know it. There's nothing new. We have no new information from --. The President had a good meeting with the congressional leaders earlier today. The entire meeting was devoted to Bosnia. The President outlined, gave a review of Secretary Christopher's trip, a review of his meetings in Moscow today; said that he would continue to consult with the congressional leaders over the course of the next days and weeks.
Q Does the President believe there should be a debate if not a formal resolution in Congress so that the American people can better understand what is at stake?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President clearly believes that the American people have to understand what's at stake here and he will explain that, explain our goals, explain our objectives and explain how we intend to meet them. At the same time, if the action requires congressional authorization, the President will certainly go forward with that.
Q Does he believe there should be a debate and congressional authorization prior to peacekeepers going as well as prior to any military action, or are those two very different things?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that we have to wait and see exactly what action is contemplated. We don't have a set action yet. We have no decisions yet. But, clearly, the President will go to the Congress if it is required, and we clearly, if he goes to the Congress, will have a full debate.
Q George, you keep saying, "if it is required." Are you making a distinction here?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. What I'm trying to do --
Q would he go to the Congress in any case in order to rally the public?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think what we're trying -- I'm trying not to prejudge the President's decision. I mean, the President has not made a decision, we have not taken any action yet. If he takes an action which requires congressional authorization, certainly we'll get it.
Q What would require congressional --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not going to get into going down hypothetical roads on what the President may or may not decide.
Q Peacekeepers. He's committed himself to peacekeepers if the ratification --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President has not made any final decisions. Certainly, planning is going on. When he makes the final decisions, we will certainly move forward on the appropriate methods of congressional consultation. I would also add, as the President said earlier today, we have consulted with the Congress, he will continue to consult with Congress before any action is taken. He pledged that at the end of the congressional meeting today.
Q Would any of the options before him now require congressional authorization?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I cannot comment on the options before the President until he makes a decision.
Q how the President will communicate, will try to sell the plan?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I think it depends on what the decision is. I mean, we have to wait and see. We'll review that over the coming days.
Q Would it be fair, George, to say that some kind of military intervention appears less likely now since -- during Christopher's rounds of talks, all the allies are reluctant to sign on that; the Russians were reluctant to sign onto that, yet they also seem to be pushing this toward a peacekeeping mission as opposed to peacemaking.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Both the Russians and the French said quite specifically that no options had been excluded, and I think that that is true; no options have been excluded. The discussions did focus on a wide array of options if a peace agreement were not reached, including military options, and there was discussion on that. And we believe we're going to come up with a common approach. So we just wouldn't take your assumption.
Q Does the President believe that under the Constitution Congress has the power to bar him from sending troops for peacekeeping purpose?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the President is reviewing the War Powers Act at this time. That is under review by the National Security Council and the Counsel's Office, and we have not had a completion of that review yet. He has said that he will act consistent with the War Powers Act if necessary.
Q But you have not yet determined your position about what the War Powers Act --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not the final position, no.
Q George, do you have any independent reports yet from Zepa on the situation there? Is it under attack?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We have no independent reports.
Q George, how worried are you that the various Serbian militia are really not under any political control and it kind of doesn't make any difference at all what the President and the parliament do.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, obviously, we're worried about the issues of command and control, and we've made that clear. At the same time, we can't be sure about every single militia, but we believe that the Serbs can be held responsible -- largely responsible for the control of their forces. Obviously not -- probably not entirely for every single soldier in every single area, but we certainly think that they should be held overall responsible.
Q How will you go about enforcing that political control?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I think that that is something to be determined after we see the situation on the ground and after we make our decisions.
Q George, are you waiting to complete that review of the War Powers Act before responding to that letter from the 91 members of Congress?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not certain that we'd have to wait for the final review, but I think that -- we hope that it will be completed relatively soon, and we'll certainly be consulting with the members of Congress on this particular potential action in Bosnia.
Q Do you have anything today, George, on the Middle East negotiators -- when they're going to come to the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Nothing new, no.
Q Any statements on the fact that they have agreed to extend the talks?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're pleased that they've agreed to extend the talks and we continue to hope that they'll go well.
Q Does the President support the Wellstone amendment, which would require full disclosure -- itemized disclosure by lobbyists similar to what I believe was the case in Arkansas and which I believe is going to go to the floor this afternoon?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if we have a position on that. We certainly support the overall thrust of the lobbying bill before the Congress today. And we support the ethics requirements as they apply to the White House. I think that's a matter for the House to decide, though.
Q But the Wellstone amendment would require an itemized disclosure of what each lobbyist spends on each member or senator contrary to the overall bill, which would not require such disclosure.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, we have that same disclosure for the White House officials. But I believe that's a matter for the House to decide. I don't know that we have an official position. If we do, I'll get back to you.
Q The President supported that in Arkansas, and if he supports it for White House workers, why wouldn't he lend support to a Democratic senator trying to make that the law of the land for Congress?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We generally don't get involved in matters involving the Senate and House internal matters. But the President does support it for the White House.
Q Will the President name Roy Neel as Deputy Chief of Staff?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We haven't made any decisions yet.
Q George, wouldn't you say that that's an internal matter for the Senate and House to decide? The President's going to have a position on lobbying registration and lobbying disclosure, and he's talked about that a lot. I don't understand how that --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And we do support the general thrust. I just don't have a specific position on that amendment, and I don't know that we will. If we do we'll let you know.
Q But is your argument that on the details of whatever should happen on lobbyists and their registration with the House and Senate that that's a sort of internal housekeeping matter -- the details of it in Congress, and the President's not going to come up with specific positions, because I was under the impression that you all were developing a very specific package on that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know that we have a specific package on that or that we're going to have a specific position on every amendment, but we do support the thrust of the bill.
Q Are you still planning to do campaign finance tomorrow?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think probably Friday.
Q Another Bosnia question. Since you won't talk about hypotheticals down the road, can you tell us whether or not the President believes the War Powers Act would have applied in sending troops to Kuwait or sending troops to Somalia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know that he had a position on that. He was a governor at the time. He did support the Bush decision on Somalia, which was done consistent with the War Powers Act, and he said that he would take action consistent with the War Powers Act as well.
Q What about Somalia, which is --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Somalia was what I was referring to. I'm sorry.
Q What will be the format of the campaign finances announcement?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We don't have it set yet.
Q Will it be in town, though?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, I think so, yes.
Q George, do you have an agenda for the visit from Delors on Friday, is that about Bosnia or is that about trade?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There will probably be some discussion of Bosnia ,but I think the focus will be on trade matters.
Q George, what's the status of contact with North Korea on their nuclear program?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have any new update on that today. I can take the question and see if there's been any change in the situation.
Q He's aware -- meetings are about to start.
Q There have been some stories that the administration or at least over at the State Department they are laying the groundwork for high level talks with them.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd have to check. I'll have to take the question.
Q George, does the President have a position on whether states should be allowed, as the Republicans are proposing, to require that welfare mothers get their kids immunized before they get their payments?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd have to take that question as well. I'm not certain that he's taken a position on that yet.
Q When do you expect a decision on a deputy chief of staff or other staff changes?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think relatively soon. I just don't have an exact timetable.
Q This week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't want to lock it in but I think it will be soon.
Q Not today?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not saying that it won't be today, I just don't have a decision.
Q George, a financial question. There are some allegations that the civil service retirement fund -- the system is enormously underfunded by $864 billion. What, if anything, is the administration doing about this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, we've got a lot of stumpers today. (Laughter.)
Q is the administration dealing with it? And is the President's call for eliminating the cost of living allowance connected with this?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I would have to take the question. I don't believe there's any connection, but we'll check into the funding of the fund -- the relative funding of the fund, the level of funding of the fund.
Q I want to see that in the transcript.
Q Did the President happen to see that story about the husband of the general counsel of the CFTC --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Where are these questions coming from today? (Laughter.)
Q business section. This guy was doing a job search in his wife's office at the CFTC. She is a Bush holdover and the general counsel to the CFTC, and he was having all of his potential employers call him in his wife's office at this federal agency. Are you aware of that or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not aware of it. As you know, our ethics regulations prohibit the use of government work for personal matters, so it's something that would be a matter of concern.
Q There was a story in Newsweek about a guy --
Q Can I just follow up on that?
Q who is said to be one of the few cases of something called foreign language syndrome who was in an automobile accident and ever since then he's been speaking with a French accent. (Laughter.) Will the President have a -- program to get to the root cause of this disease. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but we'll take it under --
Q There's no discrimination against hiring any --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: With French accents, no.
Q Should action be taken against this general counsel of this agency was using her office as an employment office --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll have to check. All I can do is point out to you the regulations that we live under, which is to prohibit the use of offices for personal use. And if that, indeed, happened, then we'll take a look at it.
Q What ever happened to the bonus review? The bonus review?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That was released an awful long time ago, yes.
Q A long time ago.
Q The lunches on health care today and tomorrow, what is the President talking to the leaders about? Is he laying out the plan where they're at so far?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he's just giving a general update of where we are and starting the consultation process again. The President does not have a final plan ready to present to the Congress, but he's giving a general update of where we are.
Q How about the schedule? Are we still on track for a public announcement at the end of May or it may slide a little bit --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're trying to -- we don't have a specific date for the announcement. We're still on the general track we've been on.
Q are you still -- Senator Rockefeller said Sunday that he expects that it would be enacted by December. Is that still realistic?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'd like to get it done this year.
Q Can you tell me about tomorrow's event -- ImportExport ? When is that, and where is it at?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's going to be at the ExIm Bank, and there's a conference of U.S. exporters, and the President's going to be addressing trade and economic matters.
Q Do you know what time?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: In the morning. I believe 10:00 a.m., but I'm not positive.
Q Is the President going to press for CEADAW ratification, and with or without reservations?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm sorry, can you repeat the question?
Q Is the President going to press for CEADAW ratification and with or without reservations?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm going to get like a D-minus today. Can you --
Q Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women a 120 nations have ratified; we haven't.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I will have to take the question. That's the first I've heard of it. (Laughter.)
Q 1996? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Seem you give them a little chocolate, they get hyperactive. (Laughter.)
Q Is there any change, any update on what's going on with introducing a new version of the jobs bill?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We are still consulting with the Congress. It didn't come up in the meeting today. But we've had consultations with the various appropriations committees, and I expect that we'll have an announcement relatively soon on a supplemental.
Q One other thing. How much impact has Bosnia had on his schedule, forcing him to -- I mean, you had the urban announcement yesterday that in another time maybe he might have gone on the road to announce. Has it forced you to keep him in town or cancel --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not really. Not at all. And I wouldn't take -- say that the reason he was here yesterday is because of Bosnia at all. And he is obviously working on it, but it hasn't kept him here. Tomorrow he is going to be addressing trade matters. He will also be introducing campaign finance this week. So we're on track.
Q How was the atmosphere between the President and Dole?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Fine.
Q Can you give us any color or what happened or --
Q Any jokes? (Laughter.)
Q Did he say anything? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: None that I can remember.
Q Was there a personal apology?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. I mean, it was -- in fact, people just -- and went right to work, frankly, today. And there was an awful lot to discuss and we did. The President did serve cookies, which was something Senator Dole had noted at the first joint meeting -- that there wasn't enough food. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We've had food ever since.
Q Has it done any good? (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we've had enough today.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END1:39 P.M. EDT